Reporter - Danielle Lerner

Feb 9, 2012 2:40 PM by Danielle Lerner

Does increase in local construction mean the market is on the mend?

Despite the struggling economy, you may have noticed more construction popping up around Tucson recently. Some new student housing developments and commercial buildings are slowly coming to life in certain pockets of town. While the increase in activity is a good sign, local experts say the full recovery could still be a few years away.

Construction is underway on the Smart Lofts duplexes off Mountain and Glenn. Four, two-bedroom plus studio units, that should be ready to go by April. Plans for the energy-efficient project started back in 2007 but some last-minute lending issues and the down economy have been big setbacks.

"Prices have gone up actually so even though the housing industry hasn't been booming, that doesn't keep costs from going up and we definitely see that in steel prices," said Krista Miller, a partner with Smart Lofts LLC.

Miller and her partner hope this project, and others in the works, will cater to U of A students and UMC employees, while transforming one of several vacant lots throughout the city.

"Rather than spreading out to further reaches, taking up some of the infill land and making it a good product," said Miller.

"The overall theme that we're seeing is more cautious decision making rather than really taking that big step to expand or grow or take on new spaces," said Howard Kong, vice president and managing broker at Grubb and Ellis.

Kong says right now the bulk of construction is happening where there is an immediate need for it.

"Projects that can make money or that the users can use immediately because their businesses are warranting it," said Kong.

Kong also says it could be two to three years before we start to see the housing market surge again, but commercial real estate will take a little more time.

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