Building surges in Alexandria during pandemic year

The Alexandria Building Department issued 535 building permits last year for projects valued at $66.56 million – a 35% increase, or $17.42 million more than 2019 when it processed 487 permits for projects valued at $49.14 million.

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A UPS distribution center at 4150 Dakota Street near Target ranked number four in the city's top building projects, with a value of $3,200,000. (Lowell Anderson / Echo Press)

Instead of working from home during the pandemic, Alexandria’s construction industry was busy working on homes – and commercial projects too.

That’s how Lynn Timm, the city’s building official, summed up 2020 in her annual building report to the Alexandria City Council Monday night, April 12.

The building department issued 535 building permits last year for projects valued at $66.56 million – a 35% increase, or $17.42 million more than 2019, when it processed 487 permits for projects valued at $49.14 million.

The construction area includes the city and the townships of Hudson, LaGrand and Lake Mary.

With plumbing and mechanical permits added to the mix, the value of the projects topped $73.79 million, 34% more than 2019’s $55.17 million.


And when Alexandria Township, which is served by the building department through a separate contract, is also included, the projects total $78.9 million.

“Nearly $79 million of construction permitted in the greater Alexandria area during a worldwide pandemic – that's not too bad,” Timm told the council.

Commercial construction pounded out another good year with just over $44 million worth of projects.

Leading the way was The Rune, a mixed-use development valued at $15 million that’s going up at 317 Broadway. The project includes 72 apartments and 35,426-square-feet of commercial space.

Other top building projects included:

  • Central Lakes Apartments at 2106 Runestone Ave., $5 million.

  • Douglas Machine’s 45,917-square-foot addition at 3404 Iowa St., $3.3 million.

  • United Parcel Service’s 25,755-square foot distribution center at 4150 Iowa St. near Target, $3.2 million.

  • Douglas County’s remodel of First Lutheran Church at 822 Douglas St. into county offices and meeting rooms, $2.4 million.

  • Casey’s General Store at 716 3rd Ave. E, $2.1 million.

  • Good Neighbor’s 20,580-square-foot office/warehouse at 1910 42nd Ave. W, $1.5 million.

  • CW Development’s new car wash at 604 44th Ave. W, $1.4 million.

  • Ella’s Salon at 719 Darling Ave., $1.2 million.

  • Einerson Dental office at 300 22nd Ave. East, $1.1 million.

  • ALDI grocery store’s addition and remodel at 600 50th Ave. W, $1.1 million.

Housing projects were a driving factor in the busy year of building. Timm said two multi-family projects, The Rune and Central Lakes Apartments, will add 109 housing units in the city and contributed $20 million to the annual valuation.
New single-family construction also remained strong last year with 65 new dwellings going up – four more than 2019, the report said. The value of the construction added $14.89 million to the total valuation.

Alexandria Township also added 15 new single-family homes with a value of $3.22 million.

Residents were busy fixing up and updating their homes. The city issued 320 permits for additions, decks, re-roofing, re-siding, replacing windows, and interior and exterior improvements.


The value of the work totaled $6.27 million. This is similar to 2019 when 318 homes were upgraded with projects valued at $5.77 million, the report said.

As in past years, most of last year’s building activity, including mechanical and plumbing projects, took place within the city limits, accounting for $67.2 million. Totals for the three townships served by the building department are LaGrand – $5.91 million (down from 2019’s $6.38 million), Hudson – $390,173 (down from $1.16 million) and Lake Mary – $290,302 (down from $306,809).

Alexandria Township, which is not in the building department’s jurisdiction but is served by the department’s staff, had projects valued at $5.1 million compared to 2019’s total of $5.74 million.

Inspections also kept the building department busy, Timm said. They conducted 2,092 inspections last year.

The building department collected $627,306 in building, plumbing and mechanical fees and inspections in 2020. That’s an increase of 24% from 2019’s total of $504,871.

Before accepting Timm's report, Mayor Bobbie Osterberg credited the four-employee building department for getting through another busy year.

"How do you get all this done every year?" Osterberg said. "The numbers are just staggering."

The building department staff includes Timm, Mike Schmidt (inspector), Brenda Johnson (administrative assistant) and Julie Erickson (clerical support).

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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