Office space report a bit of a...


Office space report a bit of a mixed bag

Not great and not terrible. That's the verdict of the third-quarter report from CB Commercial Real Estate Group Inc., which shows metropolitan office absorption moving up.

But CB Commercial's top local honcho isn't prepared to break out the bubbly just yet.

Despite the higher absorption, vacancy rates rose slightly because of new space being added to the market. CB Commercial said the regional vacancy rate on September 30 was 22.04 percent, compared to 21.5 percent at the end of June.

The hottest market is Baltimore County, and the laggards are Class B space in Baltimore City and all sorts of space in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

"It's like two different worlds," said Gary Dewey, senior vice president of CB Commercial and managing officer of the Baltimore office. "Baltimore County is in the low teens and the [Baltimore/Washington] corridor is in the 20s."

Here are the basics: Downtown, 17.2 percent of Class A office space -- that means the newer, shiny stuff, most of it built in the last two decades -- was empty, compared to 22.9 percent of Class B space, which covers most older buildings, even those renovated to meet today's market. The Class A vacancy rate fell slightly during the quarter; the Class B rate was flat.

Baltimore County's vacancy rate, 13 percent, was the lowest in the suburbs. The combined rate for Howard and Anne Arundel reached 22.5 percent.

At midyear, the vacancy rate in Baltimore County was 14.2 percent. The Columbia area's rate was 23.5 percent, while Anne Arundel's rates were 25 percent near the airport and 12.6 percent in the Annapolis/Parole market.

One bit of good news: Negative absorption -- tenants moving out of more office space than they move into -- stopped during the third quarter in Baltimore. CB Commercial said the market absorbed 76,000 square feet of downtown Class A space and 58,000 square feet of Class B space in the quarter, helped by Maryland National Mortgage Corp.'s deal to occupy about 83,000 square feet of the Candler Building on Market Place.

Still, Mr. Dewey says it's too early to signal the end of the office market slump. "I'm afraid I can't start the fireworks."

Inland Leidy to sell parcel in Aberdeen

It's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's something really remarkable -- a real estate auction that isn't a distress sale.

Inland Leidy Inc. has decided to keep its headquarters in Baltimore City and will sell a 50-acre parcel it has owned for more than a decade in Aberdeen, said Daniel Billig, an auctioneer at A.J. Billig & Co.

The Nov. 19 sale will be at the site at 2 p.m.

"This is voluntary for them," said Mr. Billig, whose firm willhandle the auction. "They decided an auction would be the best way to market the property.

"It's a real hot area of Harford County," Mr. Billig said, part of a zone that county officials have designated for industrial development. The site is next to the Perryman Road parcel that B. Green & Co. leased for its planned grocery warehouse, and near Clorox Corp.'s new $150 million plant.

The land has been approved for chemical handling, out of deference to Inland Leidy, which is in the chemical transport business, Mr. Billig said. But he thinks the land also could be used for a cogeneration plant that would provide electricity for nearby plants and for broader distribution.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is waiting for state approval of a plan to expand a nearby generation facility and doesn't plan to bid on the Inland Leidy site, said BG&E; spokesman Arthur Slusark.

But the state has offered BG&E; competitors a chance to show they can provide cheap electricity through cogeneration, so some of those companies may place bids.

Harkins to build housing for elderly

Harkins Builders Inc.'s next project will be at North and Pennsylvania avenues in Baltimore, where the Silver Spring company has won a $3.6 million contract to build a seven-story, 66-unit senior citizen housing complex.

The company said the project is sponsored by the Baltimore Corporation for Housing Partnerships and St. Katherine's Church and is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The building will be finished in mid-1993, Harkins said.

Ted Nelson, vice president of Harkins, said the units will be rented to low-income elderly people. In Baltimore, Harkins has built similar projects sponsored by Associated Catholic Charities, Bon Secours Hospital and Lemko Housing Corp.

USF&G; not planning move from downtown

Here's a rumor to scratch: USF&G; Corp. doesn't plan to move from its downtown tower to its Mount Washington campus.

That has been one line of cocktail talk in development circles in recent weeks, but company spokeswoman Kerrie Burch-DeLuca said it just isn't so.

"We're not planning a wholesale move to Mount Washington, but we're always moving people back and forth," she said.

USF&G; owns both the USF&G; Tower at 100 Light St. and the Mount Washington campus. There is vacant space at both sites because of the combined effect of layoffs and of USF&G;'s decision to move some managers to field operations, she said.

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