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Real Estate Weekly – 11/4/11: New development in downtown Columbia

WRIT completes industrial assets’ sale

Washington Real Estate Investment Trust of Rockville, which has been selling off its industrial assets in order to reposition its portfolio, said it completed its fifth and final transaction of its industrial holdings by closing on the sale of two properties in Virginia, Dulles Business Park and 6100 Columbia Park Road, for $70.6 million. WRIT completed the first three industrial portfolio sale transactions in September for $235.8 million, and the fourth transaction in October for $44.5 million. The aggregate proceeds for the entire portfolio are $350 million. The buyers are affiliates of a joint venture between AREA Property Partners and the Adler Group.

New development in downtown Columbia

The Howard Hughes Corp. of Dallas announced the development of approximately 375 rental residential units and more than 14,000 square feet of retail space in downtown Columbia. This is the first project executed under the downtown Columbia redevelopment plan, which was approved in 2010. The plan allows up to 13 million square feet of net new density, consisting of 5,500 residential units, 5 million square feet of office, 1 million square feet of retail, and up to 640 hotel rooms. Two residential development companies, McLean, Va.-based Kettler and Orchard Development Corp. of Ellicott City, are partnering on the project with Hughes, a General Growth Properties Inc. spinoff.

Md. to get traffic improvement funds

The Department of Defense will provide $88.9 million of the $90 million that the state of Maryland and Montgomery County requested to address traffic mitigation issues around the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. Ben Cardin, all D-Md., announced Tuesday. “This money — which has taken nearly two years to secure — will help ensure wounded warriors and their families are able to access the new facility and lessen the impact on the surrounding community,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

RLJ acquires Charleston hotel

RLJ Lodging Trust of Bethesda, a hotel real estate investment trust, said it acquired the 176-room Courtyard by Marriott Charleston Historic District hotel from Noble Investment Group for $42 million, or approximately $239,000 per key. RLJ used available cash to pay for the purchase. The hotel in Charleston, S.C., operated as a 123-room Holiday Inn until late 2010, when it closed for an extensive renovation and conversion, It reopened as a Courtyard by Marriott in March 2011. An addition, completed in October 2011, added 53 guest rooms. RLT owns 141 hotels in 20 states and the District of Columbia, with more than 20,600 rooms.

Laurel to have new retail center

(AP) Prince George’s County officials are planning to demolish a dilapidated mall in Laurel to make way for a new town center. Greenberg Gibbons, an Owings Mills-based development firm, plans to tear down Laurel Mall on Route 1 and rebuild it as retail and residential development similar to the Annapolis Towne Centre and Hunt Valley Towne Centre, The Washington Examiner reported. The mall, which opened in 1979, has been losing business and tenants to the nearby Mall in Columbia and Arundel Mills mall. Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said two national chains have signed on as tenants at the new center.

Builders partner to create new company

The Fusion Cos., an Annapolis eco-friendly residential builder, has partnered with BGC/Gardiner & Gardiner of Crofton, a nationwide commercial construction company, to launch Fusion Commercial Construction. The partnership will focus on green commercial construction for high-density residential and commercial spaces. “Over the past 12-18 months we’ve seen increased interest in our products and process coming from both the commercial new construction and high-density residential sector,” said Wes Sims, owner of The Fusion Cos. “BGC/G&G gives us the opportunity to immediately establish ourselves not only as a viable player in the market, but more importantly as someone who can deliver projects on time and on budget — something BGC/G&G has built a reputation on since they opened their doors.”

Oasis awarded contract to help improve city parks

Oasis Design Group, a Baltimore-based landscape architecture and urban design firm, has been awarded a three-year, on-call contract by the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks for landscape architectural design services. Two other Baltimore firms — Marks, Thomas Architects and EBA Engineering Inc. — will assist Oasis in assigned tasks. This is the second on-call contract that Oasis has had with the city parks department, having been awarded a similar one in 2010. Under that contract, the Oasis team completed work at St. Mary’s Park, Luckman Park, Cylburn Arboretum, Conway Park and Clifton Park.

Hotel celebrates opening in grand style

Southern Management Corp. and Somerset Construction Co. last week celebrated the opening of the 150-room The Hotel at Arundel Preserve with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by more than 300 guests. Located within The Town Center at Arundel Preserve, the full-service hotel includes more than 10,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space and a 5,000-square-foot grand ballroom that can accommodate up to 500 guests. It was constructed using LEED-Silver standards. Pictured left to right are: Jeff Maklouf, general manager of The Hotel at Arundel Preserve; Gary Kerstein, Encore Construction; Anthony Izzo Jr., Genco Inc.; Neil Greenberg with son Richard, Somerset Construction Co.; David Hillman, CEO of Southern Management Corp.; Mike Caruthers, Somerset Construction Co.; Pam Beidle, Anne Arundel County House of Delegates; Daryl Jones, Anne Arundel County Councilman; Alexis Henderson, Anne Arundel County Economic Development Authority.

Mary’s Center to open branch in Adelphi

Mary’s Center, a community health center that serves 24,000 residents in the D.C. metropolitan area, announced it will expand services to Adelphi in Prince George’s County in early 2012. At a groundbreaking ceremony held at its future site at 8908 Riggs Road, Mary’s Center and Prince George’s County government officials recognized CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield for its support to the county and its $1.5 million grant to the Mary Center. The CareFirst grant and other significant contributions will allow the center to deliver primary care and other family services to more than 6,000 county residents. The new Mary’s Center health center in Adelphi will target populations that lack access to prenatal care to reduce the rate of babies born with low birth weights. It will also provide a full range of adult and pediatric primary care services, all made possible by CareFirst’s grant. Additional funding was provided by Providence Hospital, March of Dimes and the George Preston Fund.

Land purchase adds 825 acres to Blackwater Wildlife Refuge

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, D-Md., on Monday announced a major expansion of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge with the purchase of the 825-acre Tideland parcel along the Nanticoke River. The acquisition is the first purchase of land within the Nanticoke Unit of the 27,000-acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge’s boundary and conserves two tracts of land in Dorchester County, one along a section of the Nanticoke River near Vienna, and another to the north on the Marshyhope Creek near Brookview.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had identified the land as prime habitat for migratory waterfowl such as black ducks, blue winged-teal, wood ducks and others, as well as bald eagles, and possibly habitat for the recovering Delmarva fox squirrel. The Nanticoke section creates an opportunity for the protection of approximately one mile of river frontage along the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

The USFWS purchased the property for $1.4 million from The Conservation Fund, which had negotiated purchase of the land from Tideland Ltd. The Chesapeake Conservancy served as a catalyst by highlighting the benefits of the acquisition and advocating for the funding with the USFWS and Congress.

Valve-installation work underway at Towson Reservoir

The Baltimore City Department of Public Works said it began work Tuesday on installation of new water valves at the Towson Reservoir on Stevenson Lane, to complete the first phase of the approximately $25 million reservoir renovation/covering project. Work is scheduled to continue through Nov. 21, according to DPW officials.

As part of a requirement under the Clean Drinking Water Act, Baltimore City must enclose or post-treat its finished drinking water reservoirs. These include Towson, Montebello II, Guilford, Ashburton, Druid Lake and others.

The Towson Reservoir, now about 84 years old, contains about 9 million gallons of usable stored water. The installation of new valves not only will provide added protection to the water stores, but will increase the capacity to 16 million gallons. In addition, building enhancements and landscaping will improve the aesthetics of the site. The entire project is expected to be completed by late 2013.

Transportation museum contract awarded

(AP) The Washington County Board of Commissioners has awarded a $232,000 contract to build a transportation museum. The board voted 3-0 on Tuesday to award the construction contract to JCS Communications Inc. of Frederick. One commissioner was absent and one abstained. The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown reported that the new museum will be built at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center south of Hagerstown. It will be a 7,200 square feet and will house exhibits like wagons, sleighs, buggies and antique cars. The building is also receiving a $175,000 state grant.

Bond Street Social completes renovations

MacKenzie Contracting Co. LLC, a unit of Lutherville-based MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services LLC, announced the completion of renovations at Bond Street Social, Baltimore’s newest eating and socializing destination. Housed at 901 S. Bond St. in Fells Point, the former DuClaw Brewing location that features waterfront views, custom metal chandelier light fixtures, four interior glass-faced fireplaces and a custom gas fire pit. The space has exposed ceilings but retains a cozy feel through the use of upscale mahogany and stainless steel finishes. A private dining room is available for parties. The entire restaurant/nightclub occupies 7,600 square feet of space.

Key Associates of Philadelphia provided initial designs, aided by MacKenzie and the Bond Street Social managers and staff. The new layout includes three bars and seating for more than 100 people. An unusual feature, a custom penny floor, was created, using more than 20,000 newly minted pennies for the vestibule entrance. Said MacKenzie Vice President Dave Riegel: “It was an opportunity to work with materials and designs that are not typically used. It’s great to step outside the box and build something bold.”

New tenants sign at Towson City Center

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Caves Valley Partners announced that five tenants have signed leases at Towson City Center, a $27 million, signature building being redeveloped in the heart of downtown Towson. Towson University’s College of Health Professions, BusinessSuites and Cunningham Kitchen, a new restaurant run by the Bagby Restaurant Group, will be joining the previously announced headquarters of Mile One Automotive Group and Caves Valley Partners. With these signed leases, eight floors of the 12-story building are leased. The Towson University radio station, WTMD, also is in negotiations to occupy part of the building. Towson City Center totals nearly 155,000 square feet of rentable commercial space. The design includes a new all glass façade to take advantage of outstanding views in all directions. The building will be LEED certified to maximize its energy efficiency.

Beech Street Capital provides $40M in mortgage refinancing

Beech Street Capital LLC, a Bethesda-based mortgage banking company, said it provided $40 million in Fannie Mae DUS multi-family loan financing for the refinance of a three-property portfolio in Baltimore. The transaction was originated by New York-based Meridian Capital Group LLC and was financed by Beech Street Capital as part of its correspondent relationship with Meridian. The borrower requested a six-month forward rate lock to take advantage of low prevailing interest rates and to avoid incurring a prepayment penalty. The three properties, totaling more than 1,200 units, are located in Baltimore, Glen Burnie and Essex. The fixed-rate loans have a 10-year term and a 30-year amortization schedule. Neither the borrower nor the specific names of the properties were disclosed.

PERSONNEL

Lennhoff joins SC&H Group

SC&H Group, a Sparks-based management consulting firm offering tax, profitability and strategic services to commercial clients, announced the hiring of David C. Lennhoff to head the firm’s newly launched Appraisal Services practice. A nationally respected appraisal expert and former president of PGH Consulting LLC of Rockville, Lennhoff will develop and oversee the preparation of appraisals for complex properties, as well as provide appraisal review and expert testimony services to SC&H clients. Lennhoff is a faculty member of the Appraisal Institute, and a sought-after teacher of the institute’s curriculum. He has authored and edited numerous articles and books in the appraisal industry.

LEASES

Merritt Properties LLC and Bavar Properties Group said two tenants signed leases for space at Timonium One, a six-story, 161,911-square-foot office building at 1966 Greenspring Drive in the Timonium Business Park. SH Franchising LLC, a senior assisted living franchising company, signed a lease for 5,218 square feet of office space. Also, Doctors Express Franchising LLC, an urgent care medical franchise, took 1,967 square feet of office space. In both transactions, Patrick Smith of Blue & Obrecht represented the tenants, and the Merritt Properties team of Pat Franklin, Whit Levering , Lou Boeri and Ashley Combs represented the owner.

Merritt Properties also reported that the Center for Research on the Changing Earth System Inc., a nonprofit research organization, leased 1,038 square feet of office space at 5523 Research Park Drive, Suite 315, in the bwtech@UMBC technology incubator in Catonsville, adjacent to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s campus. Merritt’s in-house leasing team of Jamie Campbell, Liz Tarran-Jones, Vince Bagli and Steve Shaw handled the transaction.

BioMed Realty Trust Inc., a San Diego-based real estate investment trust focused on the life science industry, said Meso Scale Diagnostics LLC of Gaithersburg has signed a 15-year lease for approximately 104,700 square feet of space at BioMed’s 1701 Research Blvd. property in Rockville. The property, which was vacant when BioMed acquired it less than six months ago, is now fully leased, according to the announcement. Meso Scale develops, manufactures and markets instrumentation and assays for array-based biological measurements for research use in life sciences and for biodefense applications.

First Potomac Realty Trust, a Bethesda-based real estate investment trust that owns, develops and manages primarily office and industrial properties in the Greater Washington area, said it signed its first three leases at Three Flint Hill, a 181,400-square-foot office property in Oakton, Va. The three new tenants are CDM, which signed a 10-year lease for 31,353 square feet; Leap Frog Solutions, which signed a seven-year lease for 11,434 square feet; and The Susan Hicks Group PC, which signed a seven-year lease for 6,000 square feet. First Potomac acquired the then-vacant property in April 2010 for $13.6 million and is nearing completion of an extensive $10 million renovation, including the building façade, interior common spaces and mechanical systems.

Mack-Cali Realty Corp., an Edison, N.J.-based real estate investment trust focused on primarily office and flex buildings in the Northeast, said law firm Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. signed a 19,852-square-foot renewal at 6404 Ivy Lane in Greenbelt’s Capital Office Park. The tenant was represented in the transaction by Lance A. Schwarz and David H. Michael, both of NAI Michael. Mack Cali was represented in-house by Director of Leasing Kenneth Smondrowski.

Washington Property Co. of Bethesda, a full-service real estate company, announced the signing of the following leases, totaling 34,276 square feet, in the third quarter:

* John Staurulakis Inc. has renewed its lease for 21,834 square feet at Patriot East, 7852 Walker Drive in Greenbelt. The company’s corporate headquarters occupies a full floor of the building.Tom Long of Donohoe Real Estate Services represented the tenant and Marc Witowski of WPC represented the owner on the transaction.

* Also at Patriot East, Allines Inc. renewed its lease for 1,947 square feet of space. Marc Witowski of WPC represented the owner.

* ITT Corp. has expanded its lease at Golden Triangle II, 7855 Walker Drive in Greenbelt, signing for an additional 7,202 square feet. ITT occupies more than 32,000 square feet of space in the building. Neil Beggy of Cushman & Wakefield represented the tenant, and Todd Bosley and Tim Jaeger of CB Richard Ellis and Marc Witowski of WPC represented the owner on the transaction.

* JBL Associates has renewed its lease for 3,293 square feet of office space at 6900 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. Jonathan Hamburger and Steve Silverberg of CB Richard Ellis represented the tenant and Marc Witowski of WPC represented the owner on the transaction.

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