Real Estate Weekly – 4/20/12: Pierce’s Park opening slated at Inner Harbor

Aronson creates new division to speed back-office operations

Aronson LLC, a Rockville-based accounting and consulting firm, announced the launch of a new division, Aronson Systems, which it created to help construction companies, real estate developers, government contractors and small businesses use smart technology to improve efficiency and streamline their back offices. Aronson Systems is an authorized Sage Partner, specializing in Timberline and Master Builder software for construction companies; a Deltek Premier Partner, offering software for government contractors; and a certified ProAdvisor for Intuit Quickbooks.

Pierce’s Park opening slated at Inner Harbor

A public grand opening celebration is scheduled for May 6 at 2 p.m. for Pierce’s Park, a bit of green space at the Inner Harbor. The 1-acre park, located between the Columbus Center and Eastern Avenue, is dedicated to the memory of Baltimore contractor and civil leader Pierce J. Flanigan III. Representatives of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance will be on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by children’s activities and live entertainment. Pierce’s Park was built as a sustainable space that includes indigenous trees and native plantings, as well as bio-retention facilities that-will educate children about the benefits of capturing runoff. There are sculptures by local artist David Hess, and landscape features that promote play and imagination. The park also offers visitors free wireless access to the Internet, courtesy of Harbor Magic Hotels.

BankAnnapolis building new branch in Gambrills

BankAnnapolis has broken ground on a 3,500-square-foot branch office, located in the Waugh Chapel Towne Centre, a mixed-use development now under construction in Gambrills, just south of the existing Village at Waugh Chapel. The free-standing building will have three drive-through lanes, including a drive-up ATM, and is scheduled to open in the fall. Bignell Watkins Hasser of Annapolis is the project architect, and Gardiner & Gardiner Contracting LLC of Crofton is general contractor. BankAnnapolis currently has seven full-service branch offices serving Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s counties.

New power plant to be built in Waldorf

The Maryland Public Service Commission ordered the construction of a natural-gas-fired, electricity generating plant in Waldorf and directed three public utilities — Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., Potomac Electric Power Co. and Delmarva Power & Light Co. — to purchase its energy output when it is operational in June 2015. Competitive Power Ventures Inc., of Silver Spring, a power generation development company, will build and operate the plant, which will employ 350 to 400 construction workers and about 30 full-time employees when it opens. The privately financed plant will cost more than $500 million, CPV said.

GSA leases space in Towson office building

The U.S. General Services Administration leased 21,344 square feet of office space at Dulaney Center 1, a five-story, 127,628-square-foot office building at 849 Fairmount Ave. in Towson. The office will house the National Hearing Center, one of five offices around the country established by the Social Security Administration to conduct administrative hearings on disability claims. Douglas Brinkley, Lizzy Sweeney and Andrew McIlvaine of Cassidy Turley’s Suburban North Office Group in Baltimore represented the landlord, Guardian Realty Management Inc. Jones Lang LaSalle represented GSA.

Marriott to sell ExecuStay housing

Marriott International Inc. of Bethesda, one of the world’s largest lodging companies, and Oakwood Worldwide, a private company based in Los Angeles, announced an agreement under which Oakwood will acquire Marriott’s ExecuStay corporate and temporary apartment housing business. The two companies also established a long-term reciprocal preferred provider agreement, with Marriott becoming the preferred hotel provider for Oakwood corporate housing and serviced apartment customers who need a hotel stay. Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed, and Marriott said they are not material to its bottom line. The transaction is expected to close at the end of April.

First Potomac inks lease transactions

First Potomac Realty Trust, of Bethesda, announced three lease transactions in properties in suburban Maryland near Washington. Insurance giant Allstate Corp. renewed a five-year lease for 26,274 square feet of space at the Gateway 270 West business park in Clarksburg. DIRECTV, a digital-to-home television service, renewed its 27,430-square-foot lease at Gateway 270 West for seven years and added another 14,837 square feet, for a total of 42,267 square feet. Also, Data Design Corp., an electronic hardware design and manufacturing company, is moving from Gaithersburg to 28,500 square feet of space at First Potomac’s Campus at Metro Park North in Rockville.

McCormick facility hits energy milestone

McCormick & Co. Inc., of Sparks, an international producer of spices, seasonings, flavorings and specialty foods, said its 363,000-square-foot distribution center in Belcamp has become a net-zero energy building, meaning it generates more electricity than it uses. This was achieved through energy conservation measures implemented by McCormick and the installation in 2011 of a 1.8-megawatt rooftop solar power system from Constellation Energy, which Constellation built, owns and maintains. McCormick purchases all of the electricity generated by the solar panels at less than current market rates under separate 20-year power purchase agreements.

Best Buy closing two stores in Maryland

Faced with stiff competition from online retailers, consumer electronics chain Best Buy Co., of Richfield, Minn., announced over the past weekend that it is closing 50 stores nationwide, including two in the Baltimore area. The Inner Harbor and Hunt Valley Towne Centre stores, at 600 E. Pratt St. and 118 Shawan Road, respectively, held final sales Sunday, although they are expected to stay open until May 12. The company’s 15 other stores in Maryland — 10 big-boxes and five stand-alone locations selling mobile devices — will remain open. The number of Maryland-based employees affected was not disclosed, although nationwide some 400 workers will lose their jobs.

Western Maryland town improves drinking water

(AP) About 450 people in Mount Savage, a town in Allegany County, are getting more reliable drinking water. A new energy-efficient water distribution system brings treated water from the city of Frostburg to Mount Savage, about five miles away. A new pipeline carries untreated water down Big Savage Mountain. That water powers a small hydroelectric generator to offset the city’s cost of pumping treated water up the other side of the mountain. The $1.7 million system was funded by federal grants and loans, and replaces groundwater sources that were subject to contamination from surface water.

Human Circuit completes U.S. State Department work

Human Circuit Inc., of Gaithersburg, a design-build media integration company, announced the completion of the U.S. Department of State’s International Information Program Facility Design and Integration Project. Human Circuit was tasked with providing design, engineering and media integration services for the transformation of an existing space into a state-of-the-art, high-definition, production and post-production video facility. Mark Betka, who manages CO.NX, the State Department’s digital diplomatic program that connects it to audiences overseas via video chats, Skype and other means, said, “A low failure rate and high-quality output is what was required, and that has definitely been achieved with this current design, configuration and installation.”

Walker & Dunlop ranks as top-tier lender

Walker & Dunlop Inc., of Bethesda, announced that it was named the 13th largest commercial real estate lender in the United States in 2011 by the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Annual Origination Rankings. “Walker & Dunlop was the 45th largest lender in the country in 2007 and due to our growth during the financial crisis we finished 2010 as 11th,” commented Willy Walker, W&D’s chairman and CEO. In 2011, Walker & Dunlop originated $4 billion in commercial real estate loans, serviced $16.8 billion of commercial mortgages and asset-managed over 1,800 properties across the United States.

State board holds property tax steady

(AP) Maryland’s property tax will hold steady for now, but Comptroller Peter Franchot is warning about rising debt service obligations in upcoming years. The Board of Public Works on Wednesday held the state property tax to 11.2 cents per $100 of assessed property value. But Franchot noted that debt service obligations will increase in the next several years to $1.4 billion. He said it’s important the state keep that in mind. Treasurer Nancy Kopp said Maryland has long been recognized for having a prudent system to borrow money for infrastructure at the lowest interest rates.

Contractor who didn’t pay taxes debarred

(AP) The Board of Public Works on Wednesday debarred a Maryland contractor who pleaded guilty to failing to pay employment taxes. The decision to debar Richard Stewart was made without discussion. Federal authorities say Stewart did not pay about $4 million in taxes between 2003 and 2008 for his company, Montgomery Mechanical Services. His sentencing is scheduled for April 23. Stewart was appointed by O’Malley to be one of five members on the state’s legislative redistricting panel. He also had a position with the Maryland Stadium Authority. He pleaded guilty to federal charges in December.

LaSalle raises revenue on higher room rates

LaSalle Hotel Properties, of Bethesda, a real estate investment trust that owns upscale and luxury full-service hotels, reported first-quarter funds from operations of $14 million, or 16 cents per share, on revenue of $172.3 million, versus FFO of $8.5 million, or 8.5 cents per share, on revenue of $138.4 million in the prior-year period. LaSalle attributed the rise in revenue to improving business conditions that have filled more hotel rooms, plus additional intake from rising room rates. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast earnings per share of 17 cents on revenue of $167.8 million for the quarter.


St. John Properties Inc. has announced three new leases representing nearly 14,000 square feet of Research and Development and office space in The Center at Monocacy, a 423,000-square-foot business community at the intersection of Interstate 270 and MD Route 85 in Frederick. CBIZ, a professional services company providing a range of accounting, employee benefits, retirement plan and property and casualty products and services, leased 6,000 square feet of space, and was represented by Jonathan Hamburger of CBRE. Apex Diagnostic Services, a clinical laboratory that serves medically related industries, leased 5,040 square feet; it was represented by John Richards of NAI KLNB. HomePro Restoration, a provider of disaster cleanup services, leased 2,760 square feet, and its representative was Chad Tyler of Tyler*Donegan. Danny Severn of St. John Properties represented the landlord in all three lease transactions.

CBRE announced that United Healthcare Services, an operating division of United Health Group, the nation’s largest single health carrier, has leased 43,727 square feet of Class A office space at Lyndwood Executive Center in Elkridge. The lease is an extension of United Healthcare’s existing lease. United Healthcare has occupied space in the building since it was completed in 2002. The LEED Silver-certified property is owned by Multi-Employer Property Trust. CBRE First Vice President Abby Glassberg, First Vice President Kim Penny and Vice President Laura Westervelt represented the landlord in the transaction.

Merritt Properties LLC reported that Willis of Maryland Inc., an insurance brokerage, leased 22,664 square feet of office space at Schilling Green II, a Class A office building at 225 Schilling Circle in Hunt Valley. Willis was represented by Tim Jackson of Cushman Wakefield, Merritt Properties’ in-house leasing team of Pat Franklin, Whit Levering, Lou Boeri and Ashley Combs represented the landlord.

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