Construction projects in North Pole on the rise

NORTH POLE, Alaska — A construction boom is unfolding in North Pole with dozens of new housing units going in, a new dental office and a major water utility expansion underway.

Other buildings are being remodeled to suit new uses, including the old Blockbuster Video, on Santa Claus Lane, which is becoming a real estate office.

The number of active building permits in North Pole has nearly doubled in recent years, according to Bill Butler, the city services director.

North Pole has more than 30 building permits issued or under development, Butler said. In a typical year, the number of building permits is closer to 15 or 20, he said.

“This is a year with very diversified construction occurring,” Butler said. “There is a lot occurring in (zip code) 99705.”

Excluding the water utility expansion — involving tens of millions of dollars from a court settlement — an estimated $15.6 million worth of construction projects are pending in the Christmas-themed city of about 2,000 people 13 miles southeast of Fairbanks, according to Butler. Most of the building permits are for new housing.

Stepping Stone Builders Inc. is expanding the Eagle Estates Subdivision, off Patriot Drive, with hopes of building 39 more units in the next two years. By the end of the project, the subdivision will boast about 65 houses.

“They are sold sometimes before they are even done,” company president Rick Watson said.

Byler Contracting, based in Wasilla, has commissioned the construction of multiple fourplexes in North Pole. Some are being built on Homestead Road.

Butler said in addition to the construction activity, there is an uptick in the number of properties subdividing. The city services director sees potential for even more construction in North Pole in the coming years.

A population boost is expected after new fighter jet squadrons are stationed at Eielson Air Force Base.

An estimated 3,256 newcomers are expected to move to Interior Alaska by 2022 in connection with the military buildup, according to the latest estimates. Most of the new residents are expected to reside in the North Pole area. More than 500 new housing units will be needed by 2022, a consultant helping to plan for the growth told the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce.

Butler thinks demand is increasing for some type of immediate-care medical facility in North Pole as well as a box store, such as Walmart and Fred Meyer.

“There is a lot of undeveloped land,” he said.

Affordable energy in North Pole, such as natural gas, will be “a determiner,” Butler said.

Watson, of Stepping Stone Builders, said he thinks it’s way too early to be building for the Eielson influx. He doesn’t want to build houses now and have them sit vacant for a few years.

“I’m just a little guy,” he said. “I don’t have enough money to sit on that kind of stuff.”

Other projects in North Pole include a building remodel for a new eye clinic and another remodel for a dental clinic. The middle and high schools in North Pole are also getting improvements, Butler said.

New vehicle plug-ins are being added at the North Pole Branch Library. The North Pole transfer site is being upgraded.

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