8 outdoor projects to start this summer




Whether it’s a raised bed for growing herbs and veggies, a shed for organizing garden tools or a living wall in a courtyard, we all have a few big-ticket items on our dream garden list. Here’s your cheat sheet on what to know and how to make it happen.

By Lauren Dunec Hoang Published June 16, 2017

1. Build a Raised Bed

Increase the ease of growing herbs, vegetables, flowers and berries by installing a raised bed. These large-scale planting boxes improve soil drainage, save your back as you plant and tend the garden, and expand growing options in areas with poor soil. All in all, raised beds can really boost your gardening potential.

Need a permit? Many county building departments require permits for raised beds, as they consider them “retaining walls” for soil. Low beds under a certain height are often an exception and would not require a permit. Check with your local building department for permitting requirements.

DIY or hire a pro? If you’re confident using basic building tools such as drills and levels, you can build a raised bed on your own. If you do not have access to a hacksaw, ask the home improvement store where you purchase the boards to cut them to your specifications. (Arrive with specific lengths needed.) Not experienced with construction? Hire an installer.

Range of cost


Cost depends on materials selected for your raised bed and the overall design. Materials for a 4-foot-wide, 8-foot-long and 1-foot-tall raised bed, including redwood or cedar boards, screws and bulk soil to fill the bed, will run $200 to $300. Hiring a pro to design, build and install a raised bed can cost $350 to $800 and more depending on the height of the bed, the design and where you live.

2. Add a Deck

Expand your outdoor living space and outdoor entertaining potential with a deck. Decks can help solve issues with slopes or soggy ground by creating a dry, flat area for outdoor eating and relaxing.

Range of cost


Price depends on design, materials, size and geographic location. A small to medium deck (12 by 18 feet) can range from $10,000 to $15,000, while a larger deck (between 300 and 500 square feet) can cost $20,000 to $30,000 in the Washington, D.C., area. According to Houzz’s Real Cost Finder, an average deck costs about $14,000 in San Francisco; $6,848 in Austin, Texas; and $4,392 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

3. Update Your Garden Walkways

Elevate the design of your garden or front walkway by replacing simple dirt and mulch paths with those made of pavers, such as flagstone, cut stone or concrete, set into gravel. The new walkways will help keep mud down, aid in drainage and give your garden a finished look.

Range of cost


Cost varies widely depending on materials and the size and design of the pathway. Budget $25 to $50 per square foot for a professionally installed path (including design, materials and labor). If you’re planning on doing the design and installation yourself, you can easily pay less than half that per square foot, depending on materials selected.

4. Add a Garden Shed

Organize garden tools, empty pots, bags of soil, fertilizers and amendments, seeds, stakes and other supplies — and keep them all out of the elements — in your very own garden shed.

Range of cost


Off-the-shelf sheds made from plastic and resin range from $600 for a 7-by-7-foot shed to $1,500 for a 15-by-8-foot structure. Prefab sheds from companies that use materials such as cement board and corrugated metal will start around $7,000 for an 8-by-10-foot shed. Custom-designed and custom-built sheds will cost $50 to $200 per square foot, depending on design, materials and geographic location.

5. Make a Recirculating Fountain

Fountains of any kind are wonderful additions to the garden and help bring the landscape to life. They add a soothing sound to the garden, attract birds to come take a drink and act as a striking focal point in planting beds or on patios. A simple recirculating fountain is the easiest type to add yourself, and you can make one with a container you probably already have on hand.

Range of cost


Expect a fountain kit to cost about $30; more for ones with larger water basins. For the fountain itself, repurpose an empty glazed ceramic container you already have on hand, or plan on purchasing one ($40 to $200 or more) for the project.

6. Install a Rain Garden

Turn your landscape into an environmentally friendly habitat and cut down on your water bill by converting a section of your garden into a spot designed to catch and drain rain. Rain gardens are effectively dipped areas in the landscape designed to drain rainwater on site rather than having it run into the storm drain. In doing so, rain gardens deeply irrigate landscape trees and shrubs and also provide a temporary water source for visiting birds, frogs and insects.

Range of cost


Cost depends on the size and scale of the rain garden and whether you’re hiring a pro or doing the work yourself. In general, expect to pay $3 to $5 per square foot to install one yourself or $7 to $12 per square foot for the help of a professional.

7. Add an Outdoor Kitchen

If it’s in the budget and you frequently use your backyard for outdoor cooking and entertaining, this may be the year to splurge on an outdoor kitchen.

Range of cost


Cost varies drastically depending on the materials and design elements — grill, sink, oven, mini fridge and more — and on whether the kitchen is prefab or custom built. Prefab outdoor kitchens are available for about $5,000 from big-box stores. Simple custom designs, such as a 10-foot-long kitchen island with a spot for a grill, cost around $10,000. More elaborate designs can range from $30,000 to $100,000, depending on where you live and the number of design elements you decide to add.

8. Plant a Living Wall

Transform the blank wall of a courtyard into a vibrant, eye-catching garden with the addition of a living wall.

Range of cost


Woolly Pockets range from $19 for an 8-inch-wide-by-1-foot-long planting pocket to $100 for a 15-inch-wide-by-5½-foot-long vertical system, not including the cost for soil and plants to fill them. Custom-designed living walls can be pricey — easily over $1,000 for small installations and up to $10,000 for large-scale living walls.

Texas Office Building Sales Market Ends Q1 on Strong Note                                 By Michael Gerrity | May 17, 2017


The financial and technology sectors are two of the main drivers fueling one of the strongest economies in the country. This has made the Texas commercial real estate market an attractive target for investors and appealing destination for young professionals in the growing employment sectors, says COMMERCIAL Café. The Texas markets also exhibit a significantly reduced cost of living when compared to the New York City or San Francisco markets.

Texas Office Stats for Q1, 2017:

Office sales volume tops $1B mark in Q1

Average price per square foot reaches 5-year peak

Houston's Greenway Portfolio trades in largest Q1 sale

$3B Toyota Houston HQ on track for Q2 delivery


According to COMMERCIAL Café, the number of first quarter office transactions in the combined Texas markets was the lowest of the last five years (only 20 major deals closed in Q1 2017), in terms of sales volume, it was one of the market's best Q1 performances. A total of 20 office transactions closed in the first three months of 2017 for $1.19 billion in sales volume (not taking into account undisclosed sales), marking an 89% increase year-over-year.


The first quarter of the year was also the second-best Q1 in terms of sales volume since 2013, when 30 sales closed for $1.22 billion. Nevertheless, when measured against overall quarterly sales, the volume recorded in Q1 2017 landed below the 2013-2016 average. The best-performing quarter of the past five years proved to be Q4 2015, when 50 sales closed for a total of $2.5 billion in sales volume.

COMMERCIAL Café further reports the average price per square foot presents a comprehensive picture of the state of the Texas markets. In excluding portfolio transactions and partial stake deals, the average price per square foot appears headed for a five-year high in Q1 2017.

Moreover, not only is the average price of $294 per square foot the best Q1 number we have on record, it is also the highest quarterly average recorded in the last five years in Texas. The average price per square foot rose 85% year-over-year and was 15% higher than the market's previous peak, in Q3 2016. The market saw an overall boost in average price per square foot over the last year, surpassing the $200 mark for four consecutive quarters (Q2 2016 to Q1 2017), signaling increased buyer interest and the growing appeal of the Texas office market.

Torch blamed for wildfire in Utah



Governor says it was used to kill weeds in dry conditions


Published: June 20, 2017, 5:53 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — A wildfire that destroyed one home and damaged another while forcing hundreds of people to evacuate a Utah ski town was started by somebody using a torch to kill weeds, Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday.

Herbert, who toured the fire-damaged area around Brian Head, tweeted that experts told him the weed torch was used in dry conditions. He urged people to be extra careful during hot, dry days.

The person who was doing the burning on private land has been identified by investigators but has not yet been charged, which is why officials aren’t releasing the name, said Jason Curry of the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Even if the person had a permit to be burning, he or she would be responsible for the cost of the wildfire that is expected be more than $1 million, Curry said.

The evacuations of more than 700 people and the closure of part of a state highway were still in place as of Tuesday afternoon, Forest Service spokeswoman Cigi Burton said. There’s no timeline to lift the measures.

Wildfires have also hit California, where a blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles is 10 percent contained, and northern Nevada, where firefighters are battling a trio of wildland blazes.

In California, the nearly 1,000-acre fire prompted mandatory evacuations of several blocks near Baldwin Lake. The blaze, which began Monday, burned through brush and timber in the midst of a heat wave. About 500 firefighters aided by aircraft battled the flames.

In Utah, Kristi Phillips and her husband were in the middle of installing appliances in their newly purchased condominium on Saturday when the delivery driver mentioned black smoke off in the distance.

Within 45 minutes, the flames were close enough to see and a voice over a megaphone was telling them to evacuate immediately.

“Everyone in the building was scrambling to get out,” she said.

They were able to stay with friends and return to their main home in Las Vegas. She doesn’t expect to be able to check on the condo until the weekend.

“We were in the middle of putting the dishwasher in. It’s half-sitting in, half-sitting out,” she said.

Burton said the fire was growing slowly and crews were lighting backfires to help consume fuels in the path of the flames that have blackened roughly 1.5 square miles (2 square kilometers).

One firefighter suffered a concussion and another a puncture wound in the fire that started Saturday, she said. Both are recovering.

The fire is keeping visitors away from the mountain town full of businesses that rely on summer tourism.

Carol Reid and her husband decided to do a scenic drive Saturday around Brian Head when she saw a whiff of smoke that she thought might be a campfire.

As they turned around a curve into town, “flames exploded up the hill and within seconds the fire spread all the way up to the top of the mountain,” she said in an email.

She and her husband left town.

Rolane Grinnell, owner of Brian Head Outdoor Adventure company, said his business is losing thousands of dollars.

“We’re having to turn our guests away,” Grinnell said.

Demand outpacing supply in Utah housing market, analysts say



Utah home sales, prices expected to continue to climb this year

By Jasen Lee @JasenLee1

Published: Feb. 3, 2017 6:35 p.m.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Last year was a record for the local housing market, with sales and prices reaching historic levels, according to a new report.

But the impacts on the Wasatch Front market could be good and bad, an analyst said Friday.

The state’s brisk population growth has created what appears to be a housing shortage, said Jim Wood, economist and senior fellow at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Garner Policy Institute.

For the first time in 40 years, the rise in households in Utah exceeds the number of new housing units, he said, resulting in all segments of the housing market reporting strong demand and inadequate supply.

“That’s where we are in all three markets — apartments, existing homes and new (construction),” Wood said. “Builders sell everything they’ve got. “

Speaking Friday to an audience of more than 700 real estate professionals at the Little America Hotel, he said the state’s increasingly “tight” housing sector could become a social and political issue, as well as an economic issue, over whether enough affordable housing can be produced in the current real estate climate.

“Take the apartment market for instance. Apartment vacancy rates are at the lowest level in decades despite the historic apartment boom,” he said in a report he authored for the Salt Lake Board of Realtors titled “Salt Lake Housing Forecast 2017.”

“The boom has added 20,000 units statewide since 2012, a 7 percent increase in the rental inventory, but the rental market remains extremely tight. The Salt Lake County apartment market has the lowest vacancy rates in over 20 years.”

In the report, he also notes that new homebuilders have virtually no unsold inventory and are currently producing at peak capacity.

“Builders face three serious supply bottlenecks: labor shortage, high land prices, and municipal zoning, fees and regulations,” he said. “Builders would be hard-pressed to ramp up much beyond current levels of construction.”

With that in mind, he said 2016 was the best year for sales in the Salt Lake County real estate market in a decade, and 2017 should be similarly robust.

“This year, home sales and prices will continue to climb,” Wood said.

Last year, sales of single-family homes rose slightly — up 1.3 percent — to 13,600 sales, the highest number of existing single-family home sales in 10 years, the report states. The median sales price of a single-family home in 2016 reached an all-time high at $295,000, surpassing the previous record high of $290,000 in 2007.

Wood said the Salt Lake residential real estate market today is dramatically different from a few years ago. In 2009, the typical Salt Lake area property listing was on the market for a median of 81 days before selling. In 2016, properties lasted just 13 days on the market before selling.

Going forward, higher home prices will make affordability an issue, Wood noted. In Salt Lake County, single-family home prices this year will likely increase 5 percent to 7 percent, he told the audience, while multifamily units will increase 6 percent to 8 percent. Additionally, residential sales this year are expected to total $6 billion — up 9 percent from last year.

However, Wood warned that another year of housing price increases should be supported by favorable fundamentals in the market, including relatively low interest rates, along with solid demographic, job and wage growth.

“These fundamentals combined with the exceptionally strong demand, as well-evidenced by the record low ‘days on market,’ will push the median sales price of a single-family home to the $310,000 to $315,000 price range — a 5 to 7 percent increase,” he said. “Home sales will see a slightly lower increase with single-family sales increasing to … a gain of 3 to 5 percent.”

He added that condominium sales and prices should be even stronger, both increasing from 6 percent to 8 percent.

“Although wages are expected to increase by 3 percent in 2017, it will not be enough to counter higher home prices and higher interest rates, Wood said.

How much declining affordability affects consumer demand is uncertain, but it may not be enough to change the upward trajectory of home sales and prices, he said.

“Overall, it’s going to be a tight market for buyers and renters,” Wood said. “Prices aren’t going to come down. Interest rates aren’t going to come down, and availability is not going to improve much. You just have to ‘pull the trigger.’”


Regional leaders endorse state transportation funding plan                                    By: Tom Hughes


We have two choices to preserve our quality of life: We can take action now, or let the challenges deepen as the fixes get more expensive. This is bigger than any one city, county or metro area. This affects us all, which is why we must all work together.

Leaders from throughout the metropolitan region endorsed the transportion funding plan being considered by the 2017 Oregon Legislature in an opinion piece published in the Tuesday issue of the Portland Tribune.

The statement was signed by Metro Chair Tom Hughes, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Washington County Chair Andy Duyck, Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard, TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, Port of Portland Executive Director Curtis Robinhold, and virtually everyone mayor in the tri-county region.

The endorsements are significant because the plan requires regional residents and businesses to bear a higher share of the 10 year, $8 billion plan's costs to receive a larger share of its benefits. Specific congestion-reduction projects in the plan for the region include rebulding the I-5/I-84 interchange in the Rose Quarter, widening I-205 from the Abernathy Bridge at West Linn to Stafford Road, and adding a third lane to two-lane portions of Highway 217.

The plan also includes money from transit, bike and pedestrian improvements. It would raise money in a variety of ways, including increases in gas taxes and registration fees, surcharges for bicycles and electric cars, a small tax on new and used vehicle purchases and a commitment to use tolls when appropriate for new construction.

The Portland Tribune editorial board also endorsed the transportation funding plan in Tuesday's issue, although it also called for greater oversight of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Here is the statement signed by the regional officials

Every road, transit line and bridge we use today exists because Oregonians made a choice to take action and invest in transportation.

Getting around easily has long been a part of what makes Oregon a great place to live — a source of pride and prosperity. We've long enjoyed the reliability of getting to work on time, getting home to our families quickly and safely, and getting out of town for the weekend.

Lately, it feels different. Getting around is increasingly frustrating.

As mayors, county chairs and regional leaders, we see it throughout our region's communities.

Our constituents feel it when they wait in traffic for an hour — just to move a few miles. They feel it when they have to apologize for being late to work ... again. They feel it when they worry about loved ones making it home. They even feel it when local businesses wait longer for products to arrive in stores, and families pay more for those products.

We have two choices to preserve our quality of life: We can take action now, or let the challenges deepen as the fixes get more expensive.

This is bigger than any one city, county or metro area. This affects us all, which is why we must all work together.

We want to let it be known: We are united and ready to move forward.

We support our lawmakers working on a statewide transportation package that makes strategic investments that keep people safe and serve our communities. By taking this action together, we succeed together.

Let's act now to fight the congestion, help our families live better, help our employers stay competitive, and get us all where we want to be.