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Report shows construction spending remained unstable last month

The Associated General Contractors of America reported this week that construction spending remained unstable last month.

And there is little relief in sight.

“The construction spending pendulum is likely to keep swinging between gains and losses, given the spotty increases that are occurring in private investment and sharp declines in federal, state and local construction budgets,” said Ken Simonson, an economist for the GC association. “The only consolation is that total spending has stopped falling from year-ago levels.”

Total construction spending in July 2011 was $790 billion. That represents a 1.3 percent decrease from June – and a similar figure from July 2010. Activity at private power construction sites and improvements to existing single- and multi-family structures increased by 22 percent over the past year while private commercial construction such as retail, warehouse and farm climbed 13 percent, the association reported.

In contrast, public construction declined by 8.8 percent.

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For less than the cost of a cup of joe at Starbucks, a developer this week picked up five contiguous properties in Pigtown.

The cost for all was $1.

The Board of Estimates approved the deal Wednesday for 925, 927, 929, 931 and 937 Washington Boulevard. Developer Neil A. Katz, who formed Historic Pigtown Development II  LLC last month, is planning to build a pair of residential units at Nos. 925 and 927, once the blighted buildings are demolished.

The area occupied by 929-937 will be paved and will serve as a public space, Katz’s plans say, until financing can be secured to develop a 4,725-square-foot mixed use retail and residential development there.

The Baltimore Development Corp., the city’s quasi-public development arm, purchased all five properties and attempted to sell them to another developer in 2008. At the time, they were valued much higher than a buck.

BDC papers show appraisals dated in 2005 and 2007 reflected values totaling $345,000.
And the state Department of Assessments and Taxation shows the BDC purchased 925 Washington Blvd. on June 26, 2006, for $134,200. Today, it is assessed at $154,000; 927 Washington Blvd. was sold to BDC on June 15, 2006, for $126,500, the records show.

Both were purchased by the city from Gilbert Sapperstein.

One wonders: Is Katz’s deal the sweetest purchase since the $1 homes on Montgomery Street before the city’s urban renaissance? Or maybe even the Louisiana Purchase?

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Harborplace Tower, at 111 S. Calvert St. owned and managed by General Growth Properties, has leased more than 100,000 square feet of office space so far this year – in tandem with a $750,000 facelift.

“We are thrilled with the number of new tenants who have selected Harborplace Tower as their place of business,” said Senior General Manager Christopher Schardt. “They are joining a prestigious list of existing tenants who see the great value of Harborplace Tower and have recently renewed their existing leases and in some cases, expanded their floor prints.”

New tenants include DST Brokerage Solutions, an IT company; Discepolo LLC, a medical malpractice law firm with offices in Maryland and Massachusetts; Northwestern Mutual and Kerr McDonald. BB&T recently announced plans to expand its regional headquarters there by 7,000 square feet, giving the bank a total of  21,300 square feet.

Other existing tenants include Duane Morris, BusinessSuites and Mackenzie Commercial Real Estate.

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TIDBITS:  Baltimore’s GreenMount School will celebrate the opening of a Learning Cottage on Sept. 9 at 11:30 a.m. The independent, private school is located at 501 W. 30th St. . . KLNB Retail will be the exclusive leasing broker for the regional franchise holder of Hurricane Grill & Wings, a Fort Pierce, Fla., chain that is seeking to open up to 40 new restaurants in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia. Each restaurant will be up to 5,000 square feet and will employ close to 50 full and part-time workers.. . Along the city’s historic Pennsylvania Avenue commercial corridor, Sphinx Club Complex LLC this week spent $13,000 to buy five contiguous properties at 2101, 2103, 2105, 2107 and 2111 from the Baltimore Development Corp. Plans call for a $4.1 million project that includes a full-service restaurant to be called the Negro League Café, along with a Negro League Museum – B.A.L.L. (Black Athletes and Lost Legends) House and a business incubator for the area. . .This week, CB Richard Ellis brokered the sale of a 600,000-square-foot Class A industrial warehouse and distribution facility in Cecil County to Atlanta-based Weeks Robinson Acquisitions LLC. The building, located at 4000 Principio Parkway, was purchased for $19.1 million from Quality Properties Asset Management Co.