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Real Estate Weekly – 4/19/13

Energy-saving audits available for limited number of historic homes

Owners of historic homes in Montgomery County who want to do their part to lessen energy usage have an opportunity to participate in a free home audit available through the county Planning Department’s Historic Preservation Section. Thanks to a $9,000 grant from the Maryland Historical Trust, historic preservation planners will run the local Energy Efficiency Initiative for selected owners of eight-10 historic homes in the county. There are more than 3,000 homes designated historic on the county Master Plan for Historic Preservation or located in a designated historic district. The audits will reveal a household’s energy usage and recommend measures to conserve energy. Armed with conservation strategies, homeowners can see real savings on utility costs. To apply for an audit, go to www.montgomeryplanning.org/historic/. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on May 10.

$20M O’Donnell Heights redevelopment gets underway

State and Baltimore officials, headed by Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Ray Skinner and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, joined O’Donnell Heights residents in a groundbreaking ceremony for a $20 million redevelopment project that will transform a World War II-era housing project into a modern community of affordable rental townhomes. Financing was made possible through $13.4 million in equity raised from the sale of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded by DHCD; $1.5 million in HOME funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded by Baltimore City, and $900,000 from the state’s Rental Housing Funds.

COPT gets investment grade ratings from 3 ratings agencies

Corporate Office Properties Trust, of Columbia, a real estate investment trust primarily focused on serving U.S. government agencies and defense contractors, announced that it has received investment grade corporate ratings with stable outlooks from each of the three major U.S. ratings agencies. COPT received a BBB- rating from Fitch Ratings, a Baa3 rating from Moody’s Investors Service and a BBB- rating from Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. “Receiving an investment grade rating is an important accomplishment in the evolution of our company,” said Stephen E. Riffee, COPT’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, in a prepared statement. “It is the result of our disciplined, sustained effort to improve our portfolio quality and strengthen our balance sheet by lowering leverage and reducing our amounts of secured debt. It also reflects the strength of our franchise and the quality of our tenant base, customer relationships and team.”

Silver Spring’s Solaire apartments earn LEED Gold rating from USGBC

Washington Property Co. announced that Solaire Metro Apartments, a luxury apartment community in Silver Spring, has earned LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The property is managed by Bozzuto Management Co. Solaire offers extensive green features and amenities. In addition to being a transit-oriented community, it is 100 percent smoke-free, includes energy-efficient appliances, and low-flow, water saving fixtures that reduce utility bills and the impact on the environment. The community is a 17-story luxury high-rise containing 295 studio, one bedroom, one bedroom plus den, two bedroom and two bedroom plus den residences in 32 floor plan options.

ZipRealty’s Baltimore office supporting cancer nonprofit

Agents and staff members in the Baltimore office of ZipRealty Inc., an Emeryville, Calif.-based online residential real estate brokerage and technology provider, are participating in a fundraiser to assist HopeWell Cancer Support, a Lutherville-based nonprofit that helps people affected by cancer. ZipRealty, in partnership with Movement Mortgage and Advantage Title, has committed to be part of the Reachout & Run 5K Run/Walk taking place on Sunday at Goucher College in Towson. Reachout & Run is the largest source of funding for HopeWell’s programs, which support people with cancer, their families and loves ones. All of HopeWell’s programs are offered free of charge and are open to people at any stage of their journey through cancer.

Vehicle crashes into highway work zones more likely to kill drivers, passengers

Thirty-eight percent of highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year, according to the results of a nationwide highway work zone study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials added that the study found work zone crashes are more likely to kill vehicle operators and passengers than construction workers. According to Mike Hoover, chair of the association’s national highway and transportation division and executive vice president of Tempe, Ariz.-based Sundt Construction, contractors reported that 46 percent of motor vehicle operators or passengers were injured during work zone crashes this past year, and 14 percent were killed in those crashes. By contrast, more than 18 percent of work zone crashes injure construction workers, and 8 percent of those crashes kill them.

Retaining wall near train crash site to be repaired

Howard County officials announced the start of construction in Ellicott City to repair damage caused when a CSX coal train derailed in August 2012, killing two women who were sitting on a railroad bridge. Beginning Monday, Parking Lot B in downtown Ellicott City will be closed to allow for reconstruction of a retaining wall adjacent to CSX railroad tracks. The small lot, along the Patapsco River at the lower end of Main Street, will be closed for approximately four months while private crews working for CSX rebuild a retaining wall. The project is expected to be completed in early August. Construction will take place between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. on most weekdays.

MGH wins Webby award for apartment website

MGH, a Baltimore-based, full-service marketing communications agency, announced that the website it designed and developed for 1111 Light Street, a luxury apartment home community, received an Official Honoree Award in the real estate category in this year’s Webby Awards competition. More than 11,000 entries were received from all 50 states and more than 60 countries worldwide. The Official Honoree distinction is awarded to the top 10 percent of all work entered that exhibits remarkable achievement. Honorees are selected for recognition based on (but not limited to) excellence in the following criteria: content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity and overall experience. Winners are chosen by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a global organization of industry experts and technology innovators.

Pebblebrook’s stock sale sold out

Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, of Bethesda, a real estate investment trust focused on luxury hotels in large U.S. cities, announced it will receive approximately $97 million from the recent sale of 6.50% Series C Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Shares of Beneficial Interest. The 4 million shares — 3.6 million to the public, and 400,000 to underwriters in an overallotment option — were priced at $25 per share. The sale closed on March 18. Net proceeds will be contributed to the company’s operating partnership, which will use them for purposes that may include acquiring and investing in hotel properties and reducing the company’s debt.

Ikea turns on Perryville solar system

Swedish home furnishings retailer Ikea has officially turned on the solar energy system installed at its distribution center in Perryville. The 768,972-square-foot photovoltaic system, built with 18,576 panels, is the state’s largest rooftop array. The 2,674.9-kilowatt system will produce approximately 3,397,178 kilowatt-hours of clean electricity annually, the equivalent of reducing 2,397 tons of carbon dioxide, eliminating the emissions of 499 cars or powering 359 homes yearly (based on EPA clean-energy equivalents). This installation represents the 36th completed solar project for Ikea in the U.S., with three more locations underway, bringing the eventual solar presence to nearly 90 percent of Ikea’s U.S. locations.

Transit hub to require repair work

(AP) The opening date of a new transit hub in Silver Spring remains unclear as extensive repair work is still needed. Montgomery County officials said that work, which includes ripping out two sections of the second floor, won’t begin until late summer at the earliest. The bus-and-train hub now carries a roughly $120 million price tag and is several years behind schedule. Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for County Executive Isiah Leggett, told The Washington Post that no taxpayer money will be spent on the repair work and that the county won’t do any new appropriations.

Lockheed to design ocean-energy plant

Lockheed Martin Corp., of Bethesda, a global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technology company, announced that it is working with Beijing-based Reignwood Group to develop an Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion pilot power plant off the coast of southern China. The 10-megawatt offshore plant, to be designed by Lockheed Martin, will be the largest OTEC project developed to date, supplying 100 percent of the power needed for a green resort to be built by Reignwood Group. In addition, the relationship could be the basis for the development of other OTEC power plants ranging from 10 to 100 megawatts, with a multi-billion-dollar potential.

DNR awarded BIG funding from feds

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources will receive a $1.5 million federal Sport Fish Restoration Boating Infrastructure Grant to assist the city of Annapolis with its planned renovation of City Dock. The grant is the maximum allowed under the BIG program, and the largest of its kind ever awarded in Maryland. The funding will help rebuild the 700 feet of existing deteriorating bulkhead to provide transient docking space, and 80 feet of dingy dock to serve existing moorings. Utilities service such as power and water for these facilities will also be replaced. The entire renovation will cost an estimated $4.2 million, with the city of Annapolis contributing $2.7 million.

Kaiser Permanente opens in Halethorpe

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, of Rockville, a nonprofit health plan and care provider, announced the opening of its new medical center in Halethorpe. The 130,000-square-foot, four-story building at 1701 Twin Springs Road offers more than 25 medical specialties and employs more than 330 physicians and staff. Services include around-the-clock urgent care, an ambulatory surgery center and post-anesthesia care unit, endoscopy unit featuring two gastrointestinal procedure suites, an eye procedure suite, pain management and nuclear medicine (non-cardiac). The facility uses advanced electronic record-keeping, and offers KP members access to their medical records via Android and iPhone smartphones.

Bay Bridge to get new safety measures

The Maryland Transportation Authority announced plans to install added safety measures for two-way traffic operations on the Bay Bridge. Crews are scheduled to remove and replace rumble strips and pavement markings and add new signs starting Friday to provide additional visual and physical guides to help drivers stay alert and in their lanes during two-way operations. The authority said the change will be gradual as crews first remove the existing rumble strips and pavement markings. They will then install the new lane markings and rumble strips. The work is expected to last about one week. It will be performed overnight when weather permits.

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