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Real Estate Weekly – 6/6/14

JLL: Industrial market takes first-quarter breather

Baltimore’s industrial real estate market saw a 38 percent reduction in closed lease transactions during the first quarter of 2014 despite healthy tenant activity, according to Jones Lang LaSalle’s first-quarter industrial market outlook for Baltimore. Net absorption remained solidly positive as the vacancy rate dipped 9.3 percent. “It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the level of absorption this year doesn’t match or exceed last year,” said Mark Levy, Baltimore Market Leader for JLL. The Baltimore industrial market saw healthy net absorption totaling 1.6 million square feet in 2013, and the number of transactions greater than 400,000 square feet in 2013 alone matched the previous three years combined. Demand from tenants has led to limited large blocks of available space and a jump in the development pipeline, with more than 3.5 million square feet of industrial product currently under construction, the most since 1999, according to JLL.

Construction work to start in downtown Ellicott City

Work is set to start on a major project to improve parking, pedestrian connections and environmental sustainability in the Ellicott City Historic District, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced. Construction is expected to begin on Tuesday in Parking Lot E in Ellicott City, along Court Avenue behind the Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. The parking lot is being reconstructed to improve stormwater treatment and create a new pedestrian connection between the Howard County Circuit Courthouse and Main Street in Ellicott City. Upon completion, the courthouse parking area will provide additional parking opportunities for residents, visitors, merchants and employees. The $1.5 million project is expected to be completed in September.

Miss Utility message to get noticed at Belmont Stakes

Miss Utility of Maryland and Washington, D.C., has a local connection to California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, who will attempt to become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown when he runs in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. The “Chrome” connection comes via the horse’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, who has worn the “Call 811” message on his pants, turtleneck and boots the past two races, raising awareness of the national “call before you dig” phone number. Miss Utility is a member of Common Ground Alliance, the national association that promotes the 811 phone number. The 811 service helps homeowners and professionals who plan to dig notify multiple utility companies with one phone call. An estimated combined television audience of more than 25 million people saw the 811 logo during NBC’s race coverage of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, leading to near-record high visits to Call811.com on both days.

Italian restaurant chain to open in Columbia

Maggiano’s Little Italy, a chain of Italian-style restaurants, will open its first location in Columbia — and its second in Maryland — on Monday with an unusual ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 300-seat restaurant at The Mall in Columbia. Instead of the traditional cloth ribbon, executives from the Dallas-based restaurant company, together with Howard County public officials and community leaders, will cut a 10-foot-long, braided piece of pasta to signify the opening of the brand’s 46th restaurant nationwide. That will be followed by a luncheon at which Maggiano’s new “Lighter Take” menu will be introduced, months before being rolled out nationwide this fall. According to the company, the “Lighter Take” menu offers new preparations of the brand’s classic dishes like Chicken Parmesan and Fettuccine Alfredo, delivering the same flavors and generous portions with at least 1/3 fewer calories. The restaurant has brought 150 new jobs to Columbia, according to officials. Maggiano’s first restaurant in Maryland opened at the Westfield Annapolis mall in October 2013.

Developer who failed to return deposits agrees to settlement with state agency

A developer who failed to return some deposits from prospective tenants who applied to rent units at a retirement community that was not built for lack of financing has entered into a settlement with the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Maryland Attorney General. John Infantino and his companies, Ft. Howard Senior Housing Associates LLC and Federal Development LLC, agreed to reimburse applicants whose money has not yet been returned to them. State officials said Infantino sought to build a rental retirement community for veterans and their spouses on land owned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on the site of the former Fort Howard VA Medical Center in Baltimore County. Applicants put down between $2,000 and $3,000 to reserve their units. However, Infantino and his companies had difficulty getting regulatory approval and securing financing, and in mid-2009 the project was halted. According to officials, Infantino only returned deposits from consumers who requested them or those who complained to regulators, in violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and the Maryland Application Fee Law.

Baltimore company donates and builds

playground for elementary school students Laureate Education Inc., a Baltimore-based company that provides adult career education through online and campus-based programs in 30 countries in Australia, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, and its chairman and CEO, Douglas L. Becker, will celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary by donating and constructing a state-of-the-art playground in West Baltimore. Laureate employees will be joined by local volunteers and students of the Historic Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Elementary School to build the playground at 507 W. Preston St., the school’s location. The playground will provide a safe play space not only for the school’s 460+ students, but also for other children in the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood. A ribbon-cutting is planned at the playground site at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

PERSONNEL

Rubeling & Associates, a Towson-based, regional architecture and interior design firm, announced the promotion of Sandra R. Sawicki to associate vice president, interior design. She has worked for Rubeling for 15 years and had been a managing interior designer. In her new position, Sawicki will be responsible for the entire interior design department, overseeing its strategic direction, growth and day-to-day operation. Prior to joining Rubeling, Sawicki worked for two other interior design firms in Baltimore, holding the positions of staff designer and, later, design director. She has a total of 20 years of experience in the field. Sawicki holds of bachelor of science in design degree from the University of Delaware.

LEASES 

Merritt Properties LLC, of Woodlawn, reported the following recently signed leases:

* Regional Acceptance Corporation, a financial services firm, leased 3,742 square feet of space for BB&T Bank offices at 10045 Red Run Blvd., Sujite 330, in the Owings Mills Corporate Campus. RAC was represented by Gail Chrzan of CBRE. Merritt was represented by its in-house leasing team of Pat Franklin, Whit Levering, Lou Boeri and Ashley Combs.

* Noland Properties Inc., a plumbing supply company, leased 10,000 square feet of showroom and warehouse space at 1981 Moreland Parkway, Building 2, Bays 1-4, in the Annapolis Business Park. Mike Roden of CBRE represented the tenant. Merritt’s in-house leasing team of Pat Franklin, Whit Levering, Lou Boeri and Ashley Combs handled negotiations for the landlord.

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