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Commercial and Multi-Family Starts Advance During First Half of 2021

July 29, 2021
Boston leads the pack with $4-billion in commercial and multi-family construction.

The value of commercial and multi-family starts in the top 20 metropolitan areas of the U.S. gained +12% during the first six months of 2021 relative to the first half of 2020, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. Nationally, commercial and multi-family construction starts were +10% higher on a year-to-date basis through six months. In the top 10 metro areas, commercial and multi-family construction starts were up +12% through six months, with only three metro areas – Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and Austin, TX – posting declines. In the second-largest group of metro areas (those ranked 11 through 20), starts improved +11% on a year-to-date basis, with only Phoenix, Houston, and Chicago losing ground.

The early months of the pandemic led to construction moratoriums and project delays in many of the country's largest cities, resulting in very low levels of activity in April and May 2020. Additional insight on the health of these markets can be ascertained by comparing the first six months of 2021 to the same period in 2019 – before the pandemic. On that basis, commercial and multi-family starts were down -9% in the top 20 metro areas. At the same time, nationally, they were -5% lower, indicating that the pandemic affected construction activity more dearly in larger cities. In the top 10 metro areas, commercial and multi-family starts were -20% lower than 2019 through six months, while in metro areas ranked 11 through 20, they were -13% lower.

Dodge Data & Analytics said in the press release that the New York metropolitan area was the top market for commercial and multi-family starts through six months at $12.6 billion, an +8% increase from the first half of 2020. The Dallas, TX metropolitan area was in second place for commercial and multi-family starts, totaling $4.5 billion through six months, a +12% gain over 2020. The Washington DC metro area was ranked third through six months but lost -7% to $4.3 billion. The remaining top 10 metropolitan areas through the first half of 2021 were:

  • Boston - up +34% ($4.0 billion)
  • Miami- up +26% ($3.5 billion)
  • Los Angeles - down -22% ($3.4 billion)
  • Philadelphia - up +86% ($3.3 billion)
  • Seattle - up +61% ($3.2 billion)
  • Atlanta - up +2% ($2.5 billion
  • Austin, TX, down less than one percentage point ($2.5 billion).

In summary, the top 10 metropolitan areas accounted for 40% of all commercial and multi-family starts in the United States – the same share as in the first six months of 2020. 

 The second largest metro group included:

  • Phoenix - down -10% ($2.5 billion)
  • San Diego up +171% ($2.2 billion)
  • Houston, - down -30% ($2.2 billion)
  • Denver - up +64% ($2.1 billion)
  • Nashville, TN, up +53% ($2.0 billion)
  • San Francisco, up +114% ($1.9 billion)
  • Chicago down -54% ($1.9 billion)
  • Minneapolis up +71% ($1.7 billion)
  • Kansas City, MO, up +60% ($1.6 billion
  • Orlando, FL, +11% ($1.5 billion)

This group of metro areas accounted for 18% of all commercial and multi-family starts in the United States through six months, the same share as in the previous year.