Forsyth County trending toward a building boom

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WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- The City of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County saw more construction permitting activity in the month of July than any time in the last seven years, and the numbers for August look similar.

In July, the Planning and Development Services Department approved more than $74 million in construction permits, the highest dollar amount since May of 2006.

Department Director Paul Norby said so far in August, the Department is reviewing around $70 million in permitting.

"It's too early to call it a trend," Norby said. "There're some hopeful signs for new construction, industrial expansion, things like that."

The biggest projects have already made headlines: a new office building at 4th Street and Broad Street, the conversion of the old RJ Reynolds Tobacco facilities where Inmar will go, and Herbalife moving into the old Dell location in the unincorporated part of the Forsyth County.

"Usually if a developer applies for a building permit, things are ready to go. About 95% of those projects end up getting built," Norby said.

Another big project is located on Brookstown Avenue is not only a multimillion dollar undertaking, it's also a very unique one.

Frank L. Blum Construction is building 65 apartments south of Hilltop House and east of the Visitors Center. It's called Hilltop II at this point.

What's unique is that 52 of the 65 apartments will be modular, meaning they'll be assembled elsewhere and dropped into place after construction.

Project Manager Kevin Masten said its the first project of its kind he's worked on, but potential customers are very interested to see how it goes, and it may result in new business.

"We've been really lucky, and things are continuing to increase, and we're seeing a lot more opportunities that we're chasing," Masten said.

The modular apartments are put together in assembly line fashion in a factory in Salisbury by Carolina Building Solutions, a subsidiary of Champion Home Builders.

General Manager Jeff Mooring said it'll take a 500 ton crane to drop the apartments into place.

"The crane will actually pick them up off the street and stack them over here," Mooring said pointing at a street map. "Then it'll continue on down until we have all 52 apartments in place.

The first level will be built on site. Then picture a giant Lego set as the rest are put into place.

The apartments are supposed to open in the spring of 2014, and Paul Norby said there are even more multifamily projects in the works.

"It's the beginning of something really, really good and it's been a long time coming," Norby said.