Decline in office, hotel construction starts hit DFW area in 2018


The leading U.S. metropolitan areas for commercial and multifamily construction starts registered a varied performance during 2018 compared to the previous year, according to Dodge Data & Analytics.

Of the top ten markets, ranked by the dollar amount of construction starts, four reported greater activity in 2018 while six showed declines. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area which had $6.9 billion in construction costs, was down 16 percent from 2017.

For the metropolitan areas ranked 11 through 20, seven reported gains while three reported declines. At the national level, the volume of commercial and multifamily construction starts in 2018 was $212.4 billion, up 4%, which represented a moderate rebound after a 3% setback in 2017.

The New York NY metropolitan area, at $28.7 billion in 2018, continued to be the leading market in the U.S. for commercial and multifamily construction starts, advancing 10% after its 13% drop in 2017. New York NY’s share of the U.S. total was 14% in 2018, up from 13% in 2017, although not as high as its peak 19% share reported in 2015. The next three markets in the 2018 top ten all showed gains relative to 2017 – Washington DC ($9.5 billion), up 28%; Boston MA ($9.2 billion), up 72%; and Miami FL ($8.2 billion), up 19%. The remaining six markets in the top ten with their declines relative to 2017 were – Los Angeles CA ($7.0 billion), down 11%; Chicago IL ($6.7 billion), down 1%; San Francisco CA ($6.0 billion), down 18%; Atlanta GA ($5.7 billion), down 14%; and Seattle WA ($5.7 billion), down 14%.

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Following a 10% decrease in 2017, commercial and multifamily construction starts in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area fell for the second straight year in 2018, retreating 16% to $6.9 billion. The downturn came as the result of a 35% decline for commercial building, while multifamily housing moved in the opposite direction with a 24% increase. The reduced activity for commercial building in 2018 was the result of diminished construction starts across each of the individual categories, including office buildings, down 48%; and hotels, down 51%. In 2017, the office category had included the start of two large projects in Fort Worth – a $300 million Facebook data center and the $300 million American Airlines Trinity Campus. The largest office projects entered as construction starts in 2018 were a $183 million Facebook data center in Fort Worth and the $52 million Independent Bank corporate headquarters in McKinney. Store construction starts in 2018 were down 17%, while warehouse construction starts slipped 10%. The warehouse category did feature the start of several large projects in 2018, including the $71 million Gateway Logistics Center at DFW International Airport and the $70 million Golden State Foods distribution facility in Burleson. The 24% increase for multifamily housing in 2018 showed activity rebounding after a 20% decline in 2017. The largest multifamily projects that reached groundbreaking in 2018 were the $232 million Atelier/Flora Lofts apartment tower and the $215 million Victory Park apartment tower, both in Dallas; and the $165 million Davis apartment complex in Frisco.

For the metropolitan areas ranked 11 through 20, the seven showing greater activity in 2018 relative to 2017 were – Houston TX ($4.5 billion), up 9%; Austin TX ($4.0 billion), up 22%; San Diego CA ($3.1 billion), up 12%; Minneapolis-St. Paul MN ($3.0 billion), up 16%; Phoenix AZ ($2.8 billion), up 5%; Kansas City MO-KS ($2.8 billion), up 46%; and Sacramento CA ($2.3 billion), up 44%. The three metropolitan areas in this group with decreased dollar amounts of commercial and multifamily starts in 2018 were – Philadelphia PA ($4.0 billion), down 6%; Denver CO ($2.8 billion), down 23%; and Orlando FL ($2.6 billion), down 19%.

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, casinos, transportation terminals), manufacturing buildings, single family housing, public works, and electric utilities/gas plants. The 4% increase for commercial and multifamily construction starts at the U.S. level in 2018 reflected greater activity for multifamily housing, up 8% to $95.1 billion, and the commercial building categories as a group, up 1% to $117.3 billion. Multifamily housing in 2017 had fallen 8% after appearing to have reached a peak in 2016, before posting the 8% rebound in 2018. After surging 23% in 2016, commercial building starts have shown slight improvement, edging up 1% in both 2017 and 2018.

“The brisk expansion for the U.S. economy during 2018 enabled market fundamentals for commercial building and multifamily housing to strengthen, after having shown some erosion during the previous year,” stated Robert A. Murray, chief economist for Dodge Data & Analytics. “This provided the backdrop for the healthy volume of commercial and multifamily construction starts that took place during 2018. A further boost came as a number of very large projects reached groundbreaking last year. For office buildings, this included such projects as the $1.8 billion Spiral office building in the Hudson Yards district of New York NY, a $665 million office building on North Wacker Drive in Chicago IL, and the $644 million office portion of the $1.3 billion Winthrop Square Tower in Boston MA. Large data center project starts, which are included in the office category, were also very strong in 2018, with the Washington DC area seeing the start of eleven such projects valued at a combined $1.6 billion. Hotel construction starts in 2018 were led by such projects as the $643 million hotel portion of the $1.5 billion Manchester Pacific Gateway mixed-use complex in San Diego CA and the $450 million Omni Seaport Hotel in Boston MA. The rebound for multifamily housing in 2018 was supported by such projects as the $700 million City View Tower at Court Square and the $600 million 85 Jay Street high-rise, both in the New York NY metropolitan area, as well as the $580 million multifamily portion of Boston’s Winthrop Square Tower and the $429 million multifamily portion of Seattle’s 1200 Stewart Street mixed-use high-rise.”

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“For 2019, the economic environment may not be quite as supportive to commercial and multifamily construction starts as what took place during 2018,” Murray continued. “The benefits of tax reform on economic growth are expected to wane, which may also dampen occupancies and rent growth, particularly as the supply of commercial and multifamily space rises with the completion of projects that reached groundbreaking in recent years. Furthermore, the most recent survey of bank lending officers conducted by the Federal Reserve suggests that a more cautious lending stance emerged during the latter half of 2018, especially with regard to loans for multifamily projects.”