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Commercial and Multifamily Construction Starts Show Varied Pattern

During the first half of 2019, six of the top 10 U.S. metropolitan markets for commercial and multifamily construction starts ranked by dollar volume registered greater activity compared to a year ago, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. 

Of the top 20 markets, 13 were able to register gains. At the U.S. level, the volume of commercial and multifamily construction starts during the first half of 2019 was $101.4 billion, down 6% from last year’s $107.4 billion.

The New York metropolitan area, at $15.0 billion, maintained its longstanding number-one ranking by dollar volume, although it settled back 8% from a year ago. Several very large projects had boosted New York’s first half 2018 total, including the $1.8 billion Spiral office tower in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards district. 

The first half of 2019 also witnessed groundbreaking for several very large projects, such as the $1.1 billion TSX Broadway Hotel project in Times Square, yet this year’s lift from very large projects was slightly less than what took place during 2018.

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, at $7.1 billion, was ranked number two in terms of the dollar amount of commercial and multifamily construction starts during the first half of 2019. Soaring 50% compared to a year ago, the Washington, D.C., market showed the volume of office construction starts doubling in size relative to last year. 

Providing the boost was the $610 million Reston/Gateway office/retail development in Reston, Va., and large data center projects led by the $300 million CloudHQ facility in Ashburn, Va. The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area had $1.2 billion reported for new data center starts during the first half of 2019, the most of any U.S. metropolitan area.

Of the remaining markets in the top 10, the metropolitan areas showing growth during the first half of 2019 versus a year ago were – Boston ($3.8 billion), up 2%; Los Angeles ($3.8 billion), up 14%; Atlanta ($3.4 billion), up 69%; Chicago ($3.0 billion), up 0.4%; and Austin, Texas ($2.6 billion), up 39%. 

The remaining markets in the top 10 showing declines were – Dallas-Ft. Worth  ($3.4 billion), down 7%; Miami ($3.1 billion), down 38%; and Houston ($2.5 billion), down 4%.

For the metropolitan areas ranked 11 through 20, the seven that registered first half 2019 gains were – Philadelphia ($2.5 billion), up 34%; Nashville ($2.2 billion), up 112%; Minneapolis ($1.8 billion), up 28%; Orlando ($1.8 billion), up 8%; Portland ($1.4 billion), up 22%; Cincinnati ($1.4 billion), up 130%; and Columbus ($1.2 billion), up 20%. 

The three metropolitan areas reporting declines in markets ranked 11 through 20 were – San Francisco ($2.1 billion), down 24%; Phoenix ($1.5 billion), down 5%; and Seattle ($1.5 billion), down 57%.

The commercial and multifamily total is comprised of office buildings, stores, hotels, warehouses, commercial garages and multifamily housing. Not included in this ranking are institutional building projects (e.g,, educational facilities, hospitals, convention centers, and transportation terminals) and manufacturing buildings. 

At the U.S. level, the 6% decline for commercial and multifamily construction starts in the first half of 2019 was due entirely to a slower pace for multifamily housing, which dropped 13%, while commercial building held steady with its first half 2018 amount.