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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Cranes up: US big cities report more crane activity but Toronto tops them all

New York and Chicago saw increases, while LA held steady from last count
By Dennis Lynch | July 18, 2018 05:00PM

Toronto skyline and an American construction crane (Credit: The City of Toronto via Flickr)

The U.S. likes its construction projects, but the latest count of crane activity around North America shows that Canadian cities are in the middle of a building boom.

Toronto had 97 active cranes in the air, up from 88 in January, according to Rider Levett Bucknall’s twice-annual survey of crane activity. The latest survey was conducted in June. It surveys large tower cranes, which are typically only used on large, high-rise projects.

The capital city of Ontario had more cranes in use than New York, Los Angeles and Chicago combined. One reason for the disparity could be construction costs, which have steadily increased in the U.S.

L.A. again held steady at 36 active cranes, the same number as reported in January and in July 2017.

Chicago added four for a total of 40 and New York added two for a total of 20 cranes.

Steady activity can be attributed to large, long-term projects, such as construction in L.A. County on a $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood. When completed, it will be home to the N.F.L.’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers.

In addition to many other projects, New York has steady activity at Related Companies’ Hudson Yards mega-project on the far West Side.

Seattle had 65 active cranes, the highest count in any U.S. city, and 20 more than in January, according to the survey. That’s roughly one crane per 60,000 residents in the greater Seattle area. For comparison, L.A. had one crane for every 364,000 residents.

Rider Levett also released figures on construction costs in major U.S. markets.

Costs increased in all major U.S. markets year-over-year excluding Honolulu, where costs decreased by 1 percent. New York saw a 3.62 percent increase, Chicago had a 4.8 percent rise and L.A. saw a 5.07 percent increase.

The construction cycle that has marked the last several years is starting to wind down, according to real estate pros, with the construction boom largely in the rearview mirror in the nation’s largest markets.

Construction loans in L.A., for example, have become harder to come by and are mostly being provided by a handful of lenders.

Still, there is plenty going on in the U.S.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade organization that represents commercial and industrial builders, says the average backlog of projects last year was 9.2 months. That was up 8 percent from 2016.