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Corporate Office Properties Trust plans to raise about $250 million over the next 18 months through a complex stock offering known as a forward sale.

Wells Fargo Securities borrowed 8 million shares of the Columbia-based real estate investment trust’s stock from other investors and sold them at $31 a share. Wells Fargo now holds those proceeds in escrow.

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COPT, which focuses on offices and other projects serving the federal government and its contractors, can tap into that money as needed over the next 18 months by selling shares to Wells Fargo for $31 a share. Eventually, COPT must sell 8 million shares to Wells Fargo, so it can return the stock to the original owners.

The deal effectively locks in a share price of $31 for COPT, which means it gives up something if the stock rises but gains if the stock falls.

“We have the security of knowing the equity we need for our development pipeline is locked up and there when we need it,” said Scott Robuck, COPT’s vice president, finance and treasurer.

As part of the offering, the underwriters may purchase up to 1.2 million more shares.

COPT shares were trading at $31.80 each at midday Tuesday, down about 15 cents for the day.

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