Real Estate Weekly: Baltimore’s central business district vacancy rate peaks

Leases, news and notes from Maryland's commercial real estate industry

In its third-quarter Baltimore office market report, Cushman & Wakefield found that the Baltimore office market’s overall vacancy rate was 13.8 percent, an increase of less than half a percentage point from the second quarter.

The central business district’s vacancy rate reached a historical 18 percent peak, despite the news that Transamerica Insurance will take 140,526 square feet of space in the building at 100 Light St., announcement of which was made at the end of the third quarter. The building remains physically vacant until law firm Ober Kaler and Transamerica occupy it in late 2011.

Elsewhere, strong leasing activity remains concentrated in Anne Arundel and Harford counties due to incoming tenants responding to the military’s Base Realignment and Closure process, which is drawing developers and companies to areas around Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

According to the C&W report, positive absorption is expected for Anne Arundel and Harford counties in the fourth quarter as BRAC’s operational deadline of September 2011 nears.

BRAC-related road improvements in Harford
Roads around Aberdeen Proving Ground are slated to receive a major upgrade as the state responds to expected traffic increases due to BRAC.

Construction was slated to begin Tuesday on a $42.6 million project to rebuild the US 40/MD 715 interchange and the MD 715/Old Philadelphia Road intersection. The project will improve access to the main gate at APG as 8,800 new workers are expected to move there from other military bases closing around the country.

MD 715 will be widened from four to six lanes to allow more space for vehicles to line up to be checked into the military base. This is the first BRAC-related road project in Harford County to  move from planning to construction. The project will create approximately 450 construction jobs.

Networking event slated
More than 400 professionals involved with the local commercial real estate sector are expected to gather at the “All Industry Night,” a networking session scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 14 at the Baltimore Museum of Industry,  1415 Key Highway in Baltimore.

The sponsoring organizations are NAIOP-Maryland, which is coordinating the event; the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Baltimore; Commercial Real Estate Women-Baltimore; the Maryland Appraisal Institute; the Maryland Association of Realtors; the Maryland/District of Columbia/Northern Virginia Chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors ; and the Baltimore District Council of the Urban Land Institute.

“Rather than compete with one another with the organization of several different events, we believe one networking night will collectively serve the best interests of all seven real estate groups,” explained Karl Lehmann, president of SIOR and senior vice president with Preston Partners.

Reservations to the event, which is being sponsored by seven separate commercial real estate organizations and associations, can be made by calling 410-752-3318 or by visiting www.NaiopMD.org.

Pedestrian safety project in Columbia Town Center
Howard County officials have scheduled a construction project to improve pedestrian safety on Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia, between the Mall in Columbia and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The $28,000 mid-block pedestrian crosswalk include sidewalks, crosswalk striping, pedestrian crossing signs and ADA-compliant ramps.

Construction is scheduled to begin by mid-October and the project is expected to be completed by early November, weather permitting. No private contractor is involved; county public works crews will do the construction work.

IRS project underway
Professional Products Inc. of Gaithersburg, a provider of video, audio, data and control services, was awarded a contract by the Internal Revenue Service to update the audio-visual technology for the auditorium of the New Carrollton Federal Building in Lanham.

PPI will provide the design and test engineering, system integration, project management and training. Work on the $350,000 project is underway and is expected to be completed in mid-November, a PPI representative said.

Poe House RFP issued
The Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum have issued a Request For Proposals for a consultant to draft an “Operating, Business and Finance Plan” for the house and museum.

The building at 203 N. Amity Street is both a National Historic Landmark and a Baltimore City local landmark. Poe lived in the house from 1832 to 1835, and during the period wrote some of his most memorable stories.

The building is owned by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City; CHAP operates the museum. According to the RFP, the city is looking for a consultant who will “lay out an operating strategy that protects and enhances the legacy of Poe in Baltimore and the integrity of the Poe House and Museum, while generating sufficient revenues to effectively operate a historic attraction of regional, national and international significance.”

The deadline for submissions is Dec. 8. To download a copy of the RFP, go to www.baltimorecity.gov/Government/AgenciesDepartments/Planning.aspx.

Nominate a green building
The Maryland Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council has announced its call for entries for the organization’s sixth annual awards celebration.

Utilizing a “WinterGreen” programming theme, more than 20 different categories will recognize excellence in green building design and construction, as well as the people and companies responsible for sustainable efforts throughout Maryland. The awards program is scheduled for Jan. 27 at the new Thames Street Wharf in Harbor East.

Both members and non-members of the Maryland Chapter are eligible to submit nominations to “WinterGreen,” and may do so online at www.usgbcmd.org. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 16. For more information, call 443-977-3457.

Greenberg Gibbons project lauded

Greenberg Gibbons announced that its Annapolis Towne Centre project, a $500 million mixed-use development in Annapolis, has received a WaveMaker Award from the Baltimore Chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

The WaveMaker Awards recognize unique, visionary and innovative developments in the Baltimore area.  Annapolis Towne Centre is one of six projects to be honored in 2010.

Greenberg Gibbons is a regional developer of mixed-use, town center and retail properties.

Nouveau stays put
The owners of Nouveau Contemporary Goods, Steve Appel and Lee Whitehead, announced that they will remain at their current location at 514 E. Belvedere Ave., in the Belvedere Square retail complex in North Baltimore.

The store,  which sells contemporary, cutting-edge furniture and accessories, and offers an interior design service, occupies 5,600 square feet of space at Belvedere Square, a collection of shops and restaurants at Belvedere Avenue and York Road.

The new lease runs until early 2015. Nouveau moved to Belvedere Square from the Mount Vernon neighborhood in September 2004.

This Week in Leases:

  • Cushman & Wakefield’s Baltimore office announced that Bolton Partners Inc., an independent actuarial, benefits and investment consulting firm, has signed a sublease of 14,629 square feet for a full floor at the Transamerica Tower, 100 Light St., in Baltimore. The firm will move to the Transamerica Tower in December from its current location at 575 S. Charles St., keeping 45 employees in the city. Courtenay Jenkins and Rich Thomas, leasing agents with C&W’s Baltimore office, represented the tenant. Tim Jackson, also of C&W, represented the sublandlord of the floor, RBC Capital Markets Corp.
  • DC Dental Supplies LLC signed a lease for 17,883 square feet of warehouse with office space at 2042=2048 Lord Baltimore Drive in Woodlawn, building owner Merritt Properties reported. Mordy Itzkowitz of Oxford Realty Advisors represented DC Dental Supplies. Pat Franklin, Whit Levering and Lou Boeri of Merritt Properties represented the landlord.
  • Questcor Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused primarily on pharmaceuticals for rare central nervous system disorders, leased 6,186 square feet of office space at Merritt Properties’ Columbia Corporate Park 100. The 95,356-square-foot building is actually located in Ellicott City.  Andrew Smith of Cassidy Turley represented Questcor. The Merritt team of Jamie Campbell, Ridgely Bowman, Vince Bagli and Steve Shaw represented the owner.
  • Celebree Learning Centers signed a lease with Continental Realty Corp. for 9,142 square feet of space at Robinson Crossing Shopping Center, at 450 Ritchie Highway in Severna Park. This is the first location in Anne Arundel County for the Forest Hill-based Celebree, which currently operates 18 learning centers in Maryland and one in Delaware. Celebree Learning Centers combine elements of children’s day care, pre-school and summer camp programs in an education-based environment. The Robsinson Crossing site, which will also feature an outdoor play area, is expected to be operational in 2011. Kristina Kassolis O’Keefe, senior leasing representative for Continental Realty Corp. represented the landlord and Laurie Mazzotta of Retail Strategies represented Celebree Learning Centers.