Allen County has surpassed $1 billion in commercial and residential permits for the fourth year in a row, despite the COVID-19 slowing down supply shipments.

According to the Allen County Building Department, the value of building permits issued Jan. 1-Dec. 3 this year totaled $1.237 billion. Commercial permit values totaled $669 million, while residential permit values were at $568.4 million. With a few weeks left in the year, that number could rise past 2019's nearly $1.664 billion.

Citizens Square, home to the Allen County Building Department, is again closed to the public because of the high number of COVID-19 infections in the community. However, the online permitting process "saved the day," said county building commissioner John Caywood. The technology has been in place for a few years, but proved especially handy this year when all it took was three laptops used by his staff to get work done outside the office, he said.

According to data from the building department, 68.7% of permits were acquired online during the first 11 months of 2020.

Another technology, drones, helped keep inspectors doing their work without making tradespeople clear a worksite.

"We had to figure out how we were going to continue this economic development and get the permits out the door with this virus," Caywood said.

Caywood's department worked with contractors like Hammond, who said they were having problems getting materials because supply houses couldn't get shipments out due to employee infections or quarantines, Caywood said.

Caywood and Hammond developed a strategy to deal with supply shortages as families looked to get into their new homes in a timely manner, which came in handy later in July and August when lumber became scarce.

The number of commercial and residential permits issued through Dec. 3 total 29,345, compared with 30,133 during all of last year.

Allen County Commissioners Therese Brown, Rich Beck and Nelson Peters explained the milestone Dec. 3.

A total of 77 commercial permits exceeded $1 million in value, including in Fort Wayne:

* Lutheran Downtown Hospital being built on Van Buren Street
* Amazon's new warehouse on Smith Road
* The shell building at 8610 Avionics Drive, Fort Wayne, also for Amazon
* Renovation work at Northrop High School, 7001 Coldwater Road
* Food-package manufacturer Sabert Corp.'s new Advanced Technology Center on Engle Road

Residential permits played a major role in reaching the $1 billion mark, almost a 50-50 split with commercial permits, Peters said.

"Each of the last year we've seen close to a 50-50 split in development between Allen County and Fort Wayne (permits)," Peters said.

That partially could be due to taxing units of taxes for homeowners vs. commercial tenants.

However, the 76% of the nearly $568.49 million in home values have been built outside the city of Fort Wayne. A total of 72% of commercial permits were pulled in Fort Wayne while 68% of that value was in the city itself, he said.

Why people are moving into newly constructed homes isn't known, but some national media reported early in the year that Fort Wayne's housing market was among the "hottest" in the U.S.

New single-family residences valued at nearly $333.76 million as of Nov. 3, still time to catch up to 2019's total of $365.64 million.

Many of those who spoke Dec. 7 looked toward a bright 2021 with these major projects among those still to come:

* Electric Works
* The second phase of riverfront development
* A 14,55-square-foot soccer facility being built on Tillman Road
* A new 39-lot subdivision for Classic Heights West in Huntertown
* New 206-unit multi-family community on West Wallen Road
* A $20 million shell building 14250 Hitzfield Court. The new 450,017-square-foot industrial warehouse spec building has the option to expand to 689,909 square feet and has no occupant announced yet.
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