Home AEC Governor Inslee Calls Halt to Non-Essential Commercial and Residential Construction

Governor Inslee Calls Halt to Non-Essential Commercial and Residential Construction

By Meghan Hall

Following closely behind his Stay Home, Stay Healthy order issued earlier this week, Governor Jay Inslee released new measures this week for those within the construction industry—denoting which projects are permitted to proceed, and which are not. The orders, among others, will continue to put a pause on the region’s rapid pace of development as officials try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In general, notes Inslee’s correspondence, commercial and residential construction is not authorized under the shelter-at-home order, as it is typically not considered to be an essential service. However, the governor lists several circumstances under which construction may be allowed to proceed, including construction related to essential activities described in the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order, to further goals of a government function or facility such as publicly financed low-income housing or to prevent projects already in the construction phase from damage.

Emergency repairs at both non-essential businesses and residential structures will also be permitted under Inslee’s new guidance, as are workers who support the operation and inspection of public works facilities and critical or strategic infrastructure, such as bridges, traffic signal maintenance and utilities. 

Workers in trades—from carpenters to sheet metal and iron workers to exterminators and janitorial staff—are permitted to continue with their duties, provided they work in manners consistent with City guidelines. All construction activity, as well, must meet social distancing requirements and worker protection measures before it is allowed to move forward.

The order will no doubt pause many big projects throughout the Puget Sound—both office and residential alike unless they are deemed necessary by officials. In September, Holland Partner Group broke ground on a 44-story tower designed by Weber Thompson in the Denny Triangle, which once complete will have a 180-seat auditorium and 2,000 square feet of gallery space and 393 residential units. At the time, Holland Partners estimated that as many as 300 people could be working on the site during peak construction, with over 1,200 working on the project during the duration of construction. 

Also, in September of last year, Fortress Development broke ground on its $1 billion-plus Avenue Bellevue project, a luxury residential, hotel and retail development that was originally slated for completion in 2022. However, it remains to be seen just how Inslee’s order will impact each project, and for how long the orders will be in effect; as of Inslee’s announcement, they will be in place for a minimum of two weeks.