Posted 7/07/15 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
While many communities in North Dakota’s oil patch are seeing a slowdown as a result of lower oil prices and fewer drilling rigs, that doesn’t seem to be happening in Watford City.
In fact, because McKenzie County and Watford City are the epicenter of the state’s oil activity, city and county leaders predict that 2015 will see a continuation of the rapid building of housing and commercial space that was seen in 2014.
During the first six months of 2015, 167 building permits totaling $76.9 million have been issued by the City of Watford City. That compares to 184 permits totaling $52.4 million during the first six months of 2014.
“Most people know this area remains a very strong economic center,” said Gene Veeder, executive director for the McKenzie County Job Development Authority. “Things seem to be business as usual with the projects I am dealing with - some are in planning and financial stages, but are being met with general enthusiasm. Things remain positive and city and county planning staff are as busy as usual. I expect a very busy 2015. We will know a lot more by fall, but there are some nice projects coming.”
Watford City has experienced and continues to experience a thriving econom y, and many residents are drawn to this area for not only its career opportunities, but its high quality of living. Hometown pride, visionary spirit, and stronghold leadership all drive the residents of this progressive farming and ranching community, and all are factors in the continued growth.
“A few years ago, when things started opening up with the oil boom, the water really started flowing, so to speak,” said Steven Williams, Watford City Building inspector and Code Enforcement official. “I think the city is trying to work with the community in two ways. One, we are trying to make the community as nice as possible. And two, we are trying to make the procedures that the builders have to go through a friendly experience. And I, personally, like to try and keep that small-town feeling by treating people as a neighbor, not a number. After all, a lot of these people I’m working with are my neighbors.”
Watford City is seeing a great deal of both continued and new development taking place, especially in the east and south areas of town.
“There is significant interest south of town along the bypass corridor for retail and commercial developments,” said Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford. “But those properties are not located in close proximity to available city infrastructure. So most of those potential projects would need the city to be able to guarantee water and sewer service before they could move forward. The city is developing plans for two new water towers and a new wastewater treatment plant on the south side of the city to have options ready to serve those areas as projects take shape.”
Watford City Planner and Zoning Administrator Curtis Moen agrees and says, “Just think of south of town as the east side was three years ago.”
In the South Park commercial and retail area in Watford City, Jiffy Lube is getting ready to open its doors in the very near future and a new car wash recently opened.
And according to Williams, two new restaurants will open their doors in the new office building to the west side of the old Highway 85. One will be the Smiling Moose Deli, and the second one will be Jimmy’s Pizza.
Not only is the south part of Watford City expanding, so is the eastern part of the city.
“The area east of town will be very busy with new projects this summer,” said Sanford. “Multiple hotels, a restaurant, a bank, a travel center, an elderly housing project, more apartment buildings, the beginnings of residential home construction in Fox Hills, and of course, the high school and Events Center construction will be in various stages of construction along Highway 23 east as the highway is reconstructed from the cemetery to the Good Shepherd Home.”
In the Fox Hills Subdivision, east of the airport and on the south side of N.D. Highway 23, construction of the new high school and Events Center is currently underway. A new hotel, the MainStay Suites, is also under construction, and there are three new apartment buildings that are currently being constructed. One building has been approved for occupancy and the other two are not far behind it.
To the far east of that same subdivision, three more apartment buildings have been permitted and are presently under construction. And according to Williams, footings were recently poured for the new First International Bank & Trust branch, which will also feature a coffee shop/brew house inside.
And directly across from the Fox Hills Subdivision, three single family home foundations are in the ground and just starting to go vertical says Williams. Just west of the golf course on Highway 23, Williams also says building just started on some very nice duplexes. Ten of those duplexes are complete and ready to be occupied and two duplexes are still under construction.
Further east, past the golf course is the Hunter’s Run Subdivision. It is seeing vast amounts of growth, expansion, and development. Williams describes Hunter’s Run as a mixed-zoning area with both commercial and residential zones.
The Glen in Hunter’s Run was the first to have a multi-family building and there are six more buildings that have been constructed there. According to Williams, all of the buildings have been completed and issued certificates of occupancy. Williams says the smallest building there is a 29-plex building and they’ve been tastefully done.
“We were constructing an apartment project called ‘The Glen at Hunter’s Run.’ This project is located in the Hunter’s Run Subdivision in Watford City at the northwest corner of N.D. Highway 23 East and N.D. Highway 1806,” said Glen Smith with Feinberg Properties. “The total number of apartment units at ‘The Glen at Hunter’s Run’ is 202 units in two phases. The first phase is open and we are currently leasing. The second phase just finished.”
In another area of Hunter’s Run is 10 more apartment buildings. The largest is a 36-plex and the rest, according to Williams, are a combo of five and seven-unit buildings with most having garages. A certificate of occupancy was issued last week on one of the seven-plexes, and the remaining buildings are all still currently under construction.
“Directly behind ‘The Glen at Hunter’s Run’ is another large apartment building,” said Williams. “I’m not sure exactly how many units it will have, but it is a 432-foot long building. And there are four more apartment buildings in that same area, all under construction.”
Two other parcels in Hunter’s Run, according to Williams, have multiple five-plex buildings, which are complete and ready for occupancy. And further north in the Hunter’s Run Subdivision, there are six single family homes - two of which are currently occupied and four that are in the process of being finished. And there are several duplexes that are all complete and ready for occupancy.
“At the intersection of N.D. Highway 23 and 1806, which is more of the commercial corridor, there is a Black Gold Suites hotel under construction,” says Williams. “There is also a new Border States Electric Company building that is about 80 to 85 percent complete and it’s getting ready for occupancy. And further up Highway 1806 is the new McKenzie Electric Cooperative building presently under construction. It started out in county jurisdiction, but is now in the city’s jurisdiction.”
Further east of town is The Crossings Subdivision. Williams says there is currently a four-story multi-use building being constructed there. The ground floor will be commercial and retail and the three floors above will be for apartments.
“They are currently in the process of revamping the foundation,” said Williams. “They are redesigning and re-pouring the new foundation as we speak. There are also a few modular homes going up south of the Buffalo Hills Subdivision.”
Also in The Crossings, Feinberg Properties, a New York real estate agency, is in the process of working on another apartment project.
“This new proposed project in The Crossings is currently under design and we are proposing a community with unique apartment features,” says Smith. “It will be a 380-unit property built to the highest standards. At this time, the start date for construction of The Crossings apartments is undetermined. As we move forward to finalize our designs, we will develop actual construction schedules and start-up goals.”
According to Williams, Emerald Ridge is another subdivision that is experiencing extensive expansion. He says there are currently three 36-plex apartment buildings that are close to being done. And foundations have already been poured for three additional 36-plex apartment buildings in the development.
“It’s been a hopping place around here,” says Williams. “Everything that is up now, most of it started last year. It’s been busy. All the development is based on the market, however. The market is based on the oil and the oil is based on consumption. There’s definitely been a little bit of a slowdown, but we’re still busy. It’s given me a little more time to review plans and stay organized. But it’s pretty much no different than my second day here.”
Williams knows his job keeps him very busy most days, but he assures it’s been a very enjoyable job. He loves the opportunity he’s afforded to be able to get to go into all the buildings and see all the things he gets to on a daily basis.
“With all that’s going on, there’s a lot of confusion with why so many apartment buildings,” says Williams. “But projections say we’re going to have the people here. I try not to ask a lot of questions and just do my job. The bottom line in my job is to make sure a building is safe for the public and that’s what I’ll continue doing.”