Retail outlook shows growing strength

Baltimore’s retail outlook for the year is optimistic, according to a research report released this week by Cushman & Wakefield.

The report, centered on the fourth quarter of 2012, cited a dip in the city’s unemployment rate to 7.2 percent in 2012 and a handful of new projects now under way — such as construction of the Marketplace at Fells Point and a lease signed by discount retailer Marshall’s on Pratt Street near the Inner Harbor — as examples of how the metro area is gaining strength even as the effects of the recession linger.

“Recent out-of-town investors entering the Baltimore market speak to the confidence in the area’s strong demographics, labor force and ability to attract tourist dollars. With a slowly improving economy and both public and private initiatives underway to improve infrastructure, the prospects for growth in the Baltimore retail market in 2013 remain strong,” the report stated.

Last year’s $98.5 million purchase of the city’s tourism hub, Harborplace, by New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. was cited as a boost of confidence for the area’s retail and commercial mojo. Also cited was the sale of a majority stake in Towson Place last year to Kimco Realty Corp., the return of Boscov’s to White Marsh Mall and a 50,000-square-foot lease by The Sofa Store in Towson.

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Harford County Executive David R. Craig has gone Hollywood.

On a recent trip to New York, the Republican, who is flirting with a run for governor in 2016, got a taste of the red carpet when he attended the Lincoln Center premiere of the Netflix series “House of Cards.”

A portion of the series was filmed throughout the county and produced in a huge, nondescript sound stage built especially for the production in Edgewood. It includes a replica of the Oval Office. Handpicked locations in quaint Havre de Grace were converted to Southern-style settings to portray Gaffney, S.C., hometown of the show’s lead character, South Carolina Rep. Francis “Frank” J. Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey.

Craig said he met and was photographed with Spacey and got a glimpse of co-star Robin Wright as well as other cast members. The star-struck pol also said he even saw actor Tom Hanks sitting in the theatre, where two episodes of the 13-part series were shown for the premiere.

The filming has brought millions in revenue and jobs to his county, Craig said, and is expected to spawn a second set of 13 shows to begin filming in Baltimore and Harford County this spring.

The plot line involves the smarmy antics of Frank Underwood, also majority whip of the House of Representatives, his wife and an ambitious reporter. The shows are the first to stream exclusively off a Netflix subscription and are available for viewing in bulk.

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Boston-based Dolben Company, Inc. this week reported that it had raised $53.2 million of equity for two acquisitions and three new developments, including the Marketplace at Fells Point and Charlestown Crossing, an apartment complex in Cecil County.

“Our steady growth in 2012 is due in large part to a number of successful joint venture partnerships. We foresee that the New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions will continue to be very strong markets for multifamily housing, and anticipate continued growth over the next 18 months,” said the company’s president, Deane H. Dolben.

The Marketplace at Fells Point development, now under construction, is a joint venture with Owings Mills-based Klein Enterprises. The total cost of the mixed-use project is expected to be $41.5 million and it will consist of 27,921 square feet of retail with 159 apartments. The partners last June closed on a $31 million construction loan from KeyBank and raised an additional $10.5 million in equity to complete the financing package.

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Representatives from the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia districts of the Urban Land Institute are among the sponsors of a Feb. 13 forum on transit-oriented development to be held at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Panelists will discuss topics relating to TOD in the state as well as public-private partnerships and the impact of the real estate market and recession on plans for TOD.

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KLNB LLC has hit the $1 billion mark again — for the seventh time in eight years.

The company last week announced that its 80 full-time real estate employees recorded $1.27 billion in commercial real estate transactions last year in its five full-service offices in Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia with a total of 989 separate commercial office, industrial, warehouse, retail and land transactions.

KLNB, headquartered in Towson and founded in 1968, is made up of a pair of real estate divisions that focus on the sale and leasing of commercial office, industrial, warehouse and retail properties.

“Every sector of KLNB experienced an extremely high volume of transactions in 2012,” said KLNB President Andy Georgelakos, in a statement. “We achieved the highest-dollar transactional figure in our history, and our long-term forecast calls for the continuation of this momentum within our market footprint.”

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Want a makeover?

The Dream Backyard Makeover Contest opened this month and runs through April 22 — and voters are urged to weigh in on Facebook.

The big prize is a $70,000 complete makeover for your backyard from Archadeck Outdoor Living, Belgard Hardscapes and TimberTech. To enter, homeowners are urged to go to www.dreambackyardmakeover.com and submit a 200-word essay describing why their yard is deserving of being gussied up and a photo to help prove it.

Second- and third-place prizes include renovation of an existing deck or patio and installation of an outdoor lighting system. The contest rules call for two finalists to be selected at the end of February, March and April with the entries posted on the Archadeck fans’ page on Facebook. A panel of judges will also weigh in on the entries, using the fans’ votes as part of the final decision. Winners will be announced in May.

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TIDBITS: The nonprofit land preservation group Valleys Planning Council will host a free screening of a documentary filmed last year for its 50th anniversary on Feb. 21 at the Brown Center at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. with light refreshments and a brief talk by filmmaker Allen Moore … This week, Insight Property Group LLC and Nova-Habitat LLC celebrated the groundbreaking of Fenwick Station in Montgomery County. The development will be a six-story, 310-unit apartment building located near the Silver Spring Metro Station at the site of a former U.S. Post Office distribution center … Champion Realty recently hired real estate veteran Michael O’Brien who said he was first drawn to a career as a Realtor by “his love of people and his desire to make their housing transactions as effective and painless as possible” … MedStar is planning to develop a new comprehensive-care plaza at the intersection of Route 924 and Plumtree Road in Bel Air. The project will add 70 new jobs to Harford County … Sofi’s Crepes has opened a new location at 1627 Thames Street in Fells Point, near Broadway, open till 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday for late-night goodies.

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