Abuilding surge for new homes and commercial projects has led to a 31 percent, year-over-year increase in construction investment in Medford.

Abuilding surge for new homes and commercial projects has led to a 31 percent, year-over-year increase in construction investment in Medford.

"It's really picked up a lot," said Ryan Todd, a framer working on a Mahar Brothers house in east Medford. "Over there and over here, you can see house after house."

According to figures released by the Medford Building Department, the value of all construction projects this fiscal year is $395 million, compared with $302 million last fiscal year.

This fiscal year has seen 246 housing permits, compared with 209 last year.

The number of commercial projects dipped from 668 to 583, but the value of those projects increased 73 percent, from $131 million to $227 million.

From July 2013 to May, the value of all commercial construction was $227 million, compared with $131 million the previous fiscal year.

Building activity hasn't returned to pre-recession levels yet, but it is edging closer.

In the 2006-07 fiscal year, the city issued 383 residential permits and 503 commercial permits.

For four years in a row, starting in 2008-09, slightly more than 100 permits were issued in each year for residential construction.

"At the bottom of the market, we sometimes had less than 10 permits a month," said Chris Reising, building director.

Now, 20 or more permits are issued some months, with a high of 44 permits issued in July 2013.

Even though permits have increased, the size of houses has gone down.

"They're not building as many 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot 'McMansions,'" Reising said.

Instead, a typical new house is about 2,000 square feet, Reising said.

Most of the single-family construction is taking place in east Medford where subdivisions were laid out years ago, Reising said.

Randy Jones, general manager of Mahar Homes, said, "These numbers are trending better, but there are still people hurting in the business."

Jones said many of the new homes being built are on foreclosed lots purchased at reduced prices.

"We'll be running out of those lots soon," he said. "Then the true value of the lots will become apparent."

Jones said Mahar Homes has been doing far better than during the recession years, when it was building as few as four houses in a year.

Now, Jones said Mahar is on track to build 35 to 40 houses a year, still below the heyday of 60 to 70 in the early 2000s.

Mahar is building an office/residential complex on Lithia Way in Ashland, and plans to undertake three other commercial projects in the same area over the next year.

In addition, Mahar plans to build five medical buildings throughout Medford in the near future, he said.

Other communities have seen an increase in construction.

Ashland issued 41 single-family housing permits in 2013 and 42 in 2012. That compares with 24 in 2011 and 34 in 2010.

So far in 2014, 19 permits for residences were issued.

New commercial permits numbered 12 in 2013, nine in 2012, 11 in 2011 and five in 2010.

So far this year, two permits were issued for new commercial buildings, though other projects are in the works, according to the Ashland Community Development Department.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.