Taking a chance on office-retail building


Developers of a new 82,000 square-foot office-retail building on Dobbin Road in Columbia are gambling that Howard County's depressed office leasing market will rebound by the time the building opens next spring.

Linden Associates Inc., a Baltimore-based developer, is putting up one of the few speculative office buildings to be constructed in Columbia in several years.

"We went to several banks [to look for financing] and said, 'Are we nuts?' and they said no, you're not," said Christopher W. Kurz, president of Baltimore-based real estate company, Linden Associates Inc.

Construction of the two-story Lakeside building, on 7.9 acres in the Columbia Corporate Park, is due to start this fall. No tenants have been signed yet.

The building will be surrounded by other office buildings, such as the S-3 Technologies building that Mr. Kurz built before his former company, the McGill Development Co., fell victim to the office market crash of the early 1990s.

Mr. Kurz said the project was spurred by the prediction of CB Commercial, a Baltimore real estate broker, that office users would be willing to lease space in new buildings in Columbia by the second half of 1995.

"We have a lot of interest from restaurants and service-oriented retail uses" for the first-floor storefronts planned for the Dobbin Road side of the building, Mr. Kurz said. "And we have just started to get some interest for office uses for the second floor."

The building would bisect the site, with storefronts on Dobbin Road and an office-building exterior on the Stanford Boulevard side. County planners are reviewing plans for the site before scheduling a hearing before the county Planning Board.

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