Visalia's stimulus plan show signs of success

VISALIA, Calif.

The framing is up at Visalia's newest downtown commercial project, the Main Street Promenade.

Stephen Peck of the project's developer, Mangano Company, says the city's lowered building fees prompted the company to start construction on the project. "Banks are loaning less, rents are lower than they were 2-3 years ago, and just a lot of economic constraints we have to deal with so the fee adjustments were very helpful."

Mangano is one of several developers taking advantage of the city's stimulus plan which includes a 21% decrease of nearly all building permit fees for commercial, industrial and residential projects.

The plan hasn't spurred a construction boom, but the projects underway are generating more revenue for the city.

Last month, only 10 residential building permits were filed, as compared to 36 in January 2010. Other types of building requests were down. Commercial building remained the same, but if you look at the money generated from those permits, last month's projects are making nearly double the amount of money as compared to last year's.

Peck says while the company only has one commercial project underway, they're putting more money into it. "We would be doing a different project without the fee adjustment."

Steve Salomon said, "I think it's better than it would have been otherwise and we do have some builders that are hanging in there that I think are doing better than they were but they're having to use every tool available and this is one of them."

Across town, workers spent most of the day preparing for a celebration welcoming a brand new housing subdivision, which Visalia hasn't seen in several years.

This weekend McMillan Homes is having a grand opening of its newest subdivision in northwest Visalia. The homebuilder says while the city's lower fees didn't necessarily factor into them starting up this subdivision, it certainly helps their bottom line

Jamie Mackenzie said, "Everything's so thin right now and tight even $500-1000 could make a difference."

The city's lowered fees are set to expire later this year, unless the city council chooses to extend them.

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