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Real Estate Weekly: 5/4/12

Dredged material used to create recreation area

A newly unveiled recreation area in Havre de Grace is giving residents more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors while providing a use for sediment dredged from nearby boating channels. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Harford County Department of Parks and Recreation partnered on the Swan Harbor Farm project, using dredged sediment to form a pond and scenic path. Sediment was taken from the Havre De Grace Yacht Basin to unclog the waterway and make boating easier. The dredged material was then used to build a walking trail on top of the area’s dikes. The project took a year to complete and was funded through a DNR Waterway Improvement Fund grant of $775,922. Revenue for the fund comes from a 5 percent excise tax, paid when a boat is purchased and titled in Maryland.

Changes to Flood Insurance Rate Maps proposed by FEMA for Howard County

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has released for public comment proposed changes to the Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Howard County. The proposed FIRM map indicates flood-prone areas in Howard County. The maps are used by insurance agents and others to calculate appropriate flood insurance rates for buildings and their contents. As a result of these map changes, many homes in Howard County may, for the first time, be included in the Special Flood Hazard Area, often referred to as the 100-year flood plain. This may result in those affected homeowners being required to purchase flood insurance. Howard County will hold a public workshop on the proposed changes to the FIRM at the Miller Library on May 14 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and again from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Representatives from FEMA and the Maryland Department of the Environment will be on hand to answer flood plain- and insurance-related questions. Additional information is available on the county’s website, and an interactive map with proposed changes to the floodplain, which is searchable by address can be found at www.howardcountymd.gov/DFIRM.htm.

New career training center for intellectually disabled adults opens in Woodlawn

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, community and government leaders joined Herbert J. Hoelter, co-founder and CEO of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives, on Monday for the opening of the nonprofit organization’s new $3 million Career Development Center, at 2621 Lord Baltimore Dr. in Woodlawn. The center houses a career development program for approximately 250 intellectually disabled adults. The 19,000-square-foot building accommodates the center’s 196 workers and provides expanded space for computer-assisted training. The center is designed to be conducive to learning, featuring open space, natural light and an outdoor atrium. Construction funding was provided through a $2.7 million Revenue Bond authorized by the county.

White Flint 2 plan beginning to take shape in Mont. County

Planners in Montgomery County are beginning work on a community plan for an area called White Flint 2 that lies between White Flint and the Rockville city limits. Last week, the county Planning Board approved a scope of work that establishes the plan goals. The White Flint 2 community has been identified for change, and the new plan will analyze land use, transportation and urban design in light of that change. It also will address the future of one of the county’s few light industrial areas, as well as what makes up an appropriate level of new development. Planners will host an open house late this spring to engage area residents and solicit their ideas, and will work closely with Rockville city staff, particularly on proposed changes to two miles of Rockville Pike. The staff draft of the plan is expected to go to the Planning Board for consideration in early 2013, then to the County Council later that year.

Potbelly Sandwich chain opens new restaurant in Towson

From left, St. John Properties’ executives Bill Holzman, Larry Maykrantz, Stan Meros, Jerry Wit and Matt Lenihan take a lunch break at a pre-opening event of the new Potbelly Sandwich Shop.

Potbelly Sandwich Works LLC, a national chain of fast-casual restaurants, has opened its first location in Baltimore County at Maryland Executive Park, a business park in Towson owned by St. John Properties. Potbelly is known for its made-to-order hot toasted sandwiches, such as turkey breast with Swiss cheese and meatball with marinara sauce. Located next door to Potbelly is Gino’s Burgers and Chicken, the modern-day version of the iconic Gino’s restaurant chain.

CFG Community Bank branch to open in Lutherville-Timonium

CFG Community Bank announced the relocation of its Towson branch to the Lutherville-Timonium area. The new, full-service branch at 11 W. Ridgely Road, just off York Road opened on April 30. A grand opening event for area residents and businesses is scheduled for May 12, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Headquartered in Baltimore, CFG Community Bank is a locally owned, full-service commercial bank focused on small and middle-market businesses, professionals and executives. In addition to the Lutherville-Timonium branch, it has branches in East Baltimore and Annapolis, and is planning to open a branch in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood before the end of the year.

Northrop Grumman opens IT office in Windsor Mill to service SSA and CMS

Northrop Grumman Corp. has opened a new facility in Windsor Mill to support the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In 2010, Northrop Grumman was awarded part of the SSA’s $2.8 billion Information Technology Support Services indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to provide IT and business process enhancements for improved service delivery to SSA and CMS stakeholders. The new facility “will bring new jobs and economic growth to the area,” said Amy Caro, vice president for Health IT, Northrop Grumman Information Systems. “We have approximately 600 people in the area supporting [SSA and CMS] and we expect this support to expand, along with our other health IT programs, in the coming contract years.”

Only two floors remain available at 12-story Towson City Center

Cassidy Turley, the Baltimore-based commercial real estate company that is responsible for leasing Towson City Center, a renovated 157,712-square-foot, Class A office building in downtown Towson, said only the fifth and sixth floors of the 12-story building, each with about 12,000 square feet, are still available for lease. Slated to open on July 1, the building will house Towson University on four floors, and Caves Valley Partners and Mile One, the building’s owners, on four floors. Business Suites, a provider of executive suites to sole proprietorships or small companies in need of business services, has agreed to lease one floor, and WMS Partners, a comprehensive multifamily, office, investment advisory and financial planning firm, will also lease a floor. Cunningham Kitchen, a new restaurant operated by Bagby Restaurant Group, will lease a portion of the lower level and a part of the first floor. The building will also include The Wellness Center, which will be operated by Towson University and made available to Towson City Center tenants.

Developer who bribed P.G. County Executive sentenced

(AP) A real estate developer who acknowledged bribing former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. Dr. Mirza Hussain Baig, 68, of Burtonsville was sentenced Thursday. Baig, a physician, was also ordered to pay a fine of $50,000 and to forfeit $250,000. As part of the guilty plea last year, Baig acknowledged that from 2006 through at least October 2010 he was part of a conspiracy to bribe Johnson and other public officials in exchange for their assistance on various matters. Johnson was sentenced to more than seven years in prison and began serving his sentence earlier this year. Baig’s attorney did not immediately return an email requesting comment.

Turbine setback proposed for Garrett Co.

(AP) The Garrett County Commissioners are proposing rules to put distance between wind turbines and homes. The proposed formula would require turbines to be no closer to an occupied dwelling than five times the device’s height. For a 400-foot turbine, the setback would be 2,000 feet. The formula is part of a proposed countywide land-use ordinance that is available for public comment through June 15.

ASLA presents award to Downtown Partnership

The Maryland Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects has presented its 2012 Spencer Ellis Award to the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. The annual award recognizes a person, agency, program or organization that has made a significant contribution to the preservation and conservation of the local environment. According to the award announcement, the Downtown Partnership created the region’s first Business Improvement District, worked with public and private partners on updating building and zoning codes, developed a Façade Improvement Grant Program, created streetscape guidelines and executed the new designs along several dozen critical blocks, and oversees management of downtown public parks and plazas, among other accomplishments.

COPT sees first-quarter profit

Corporate Office Properties Trust, of Columbia, an office real estate investment trust, posted first-quarter net income of $7 million, or 4 cents per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $18.6 million, or 33 cents per diluted share, for the year-ago period. Funds from operations rose to $41.1 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, from $9.5 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, in the 2011 quarter. Revenue totaled $143.5 million in 2012’s first quarter versus $137.5 million in the prior-year period. COPT said it netted $61 million from the sale of nine properties — seven occupied, two vacant — and a land parcel during the 2012 quarter.

Pebblebrook reports rise in funds from operations

Pebblebrook Hotel Trust, of Bethesda, a real estate investment trust focused on luxury hotels in gateway U.S. cities, reported funds from operations of $5.5 million, or 11 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter of 2012, compared to FFO of $3.4 million, or 8 cents per diluted share, for the same period last year. Revenue rose to $77.5 million from $42.7 million in the corresponding 2011 period. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters on average projected first-quarter earnings of 7 cents per share on revenue of $77.4 million. Revenue per available room and average room rates rose, by 8.4 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively, the company said.

Construction starts on new theater

Construction has started on a new home for The Red Branch Theatre, a performing arts group in Columbia. The new theater will house a 200-seat proscenium theatre, a spacious lobby and reception area, fully functioning backstage area and two rehearsal studios/classrooms. It will be home to two theatrical organizations — Drama Learning Center and Red Branch Theatre Company. Construction is expected to be completed this year.

City schools office rehab cost $500K

(AP) The Baltimore City Public Schools system spent $500,000 in renovations to the central office, while other school buildings are in need of basic repairs estimated to cost $2.8 billion. The renovations began last year and were outlined in contracts and invoices obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Maryland Public Information Act request. The biggest project was a $250,000 facelift of an executive suite for the district’s chief of information technology. City school officials said the renovations were necessary. However, schools CEO Andres Alonso said the remodeling of the executive suite showed bad judgment. The projects did not require approval from the school board.

DiamondRock sees strong first quarter

Bolstered by an increase in room rates and occupancy, DiamondRock Hospitality Co., of Bethesda, reported earnings for the first quarter of 2012 that surpassed analysts’ estimates. The lodging real estate investment trust posted funds from operations of $13.1 million, or 8 cents per diluted share, versus FFO of $10.3 million, or 6 cents per diluted share, in the comparable 2011 period. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had, on average, expected earnings of 7 cents per share for the quarter. Revenue totaled $121.4 million in 2012’s first quarter versus $103.8 million in the prior-year period. That fell below the estimates of analysts who, on average, predicted revenue of $130.5 million.

Baltimore lawmakers OK property tax cut

(AP) The Baltimore City Council has approved Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s proposed property tax cut legislation. The plan approved on Monday calls for a newly created homeowners tax credit program that the mayor’s office said would be paid for with money generated by slots and by reducing spending over the next several years. Under the plan, the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would see an annual tax reduction of $40 in 2013, growing to $400 in 2020. Rawlings-Blake has said the gradual tax reduction would prevent large cuts to city services and public school funding.

Choice Hotels has busy quarter

Choice Hotels International Inc., of Silver Spring, one of the world’s largest lodging franchisors, said it opened 46 new franchised hotels during the first quarter of 2012. Additionally, the company executed a total of 64 new domestic contracts within the first quarter of 2012, a 14 percent increase over the same period last year. The openings included hotels in 23 states and six foreign countries — Australia, Brazil, France, Honduras, Italy and Norway. The new sites added more than 3,800 rooms to the company’s existing 495,000-plus rooms. In 2011, Choice opened a total of 256 new hotels.

Public pier and dock opens in Perryville

A $2.2 million pier and floating dock on the Susquehanna River in Perryville has opened after more than a year of construction. The 750-foot-long structure was built to help economic and cultural tourism, and public access to the water, in the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway area. Similar types of piers have been built in Havre de Grace, Port Deposit and Swan Harbor Farm, a park in Harford County. LSHG is a Darlington-based nonprofit organization formed to stimulate economic development activity, and promote natural, historic and cultural resources through land and water recreational trails, in Harford and Cecil counties.

Officials back new stadium in Hagerstown

(AP) A new, downtown minor-league baseball stadium in downtown Hagerstown is becoming a distinct possibility. The Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council agreed Tuesday on a plan involving local public expenditures of up to $16 million over 20 years, the Herald-Mail newspaper reported. The $30 million project also would require state and private funding. Gov. Martin O’Malley and state Comptroller Peter Franchot have both expressed support. Hagerstown Mayor Robert Bruchey proposed the project in March to replace 80-year-old Municipal Stadium, home of the Hagerstown Suns. The Suns say Municipal Stadium has a sub-standard playing surface and antiquated clubhouse facilities.

Terrapin Run plan could be revived

(AP) The developer of a controversial proposed housing project on rural land 25 miles east of Cumberland said he’s considering reviving plans for the large active-adult community. The developer, Michael Charnock, told the Cumberland Times-News he’s found a new partner for the Terrapin Run project. He said he’s evaluating his options, and would consider an offer from the state to buy the land on the edge of Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County. The project, involving as many as 4,300 homes, appeared to be dead after a long courtroom and regulatory battle ended last fall with the developer planning to sell the 935-acre site.

LEASES

CBRE arranged a 13,394-square-foot lease on behalf of ACC Columbia Medical Campus L.P. to accommodate the expansion of Chase Brexton Health Services at the Columbia Medical Campus, 5500 Knoll North Drive in Columbia. Chase Brexton, a nonprofit provider of comprehensive health services, renewed its existing lease of 8,121 square feet and added 5,273 square feet, which will allow it to add a pharmacy to its Columbia facility. The Columbia Medical Campus is a two-building complex totaling 155,000 square feet at the intersection of Routes 175 and 29. Built in 1982, the project underwent significant renovations in 2007. CBRE’s Kim Penny and Laura Westervelt represented building owner, ACC Columbia Medical Campus L.P. Terri Harrington of MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services represented Chase Brexton.

Merritt Properties LLC reported the following recently signed leases:

Friends & Farms LLC, an organic food distributor, leased 4,500 square feet of office and warehouse space at Guilford Industrial Park, 9305 Gerwig Lane, Suite S, in Columbia. Bill Harrison of Ryan Commercial represented Friends & Farms in the lease negotiations. Also, Brandt Architectural metals, a window frame/metal fabricator, leased 23,497 square feet — 2,500 s.f. of office and 20,987 s.f. of warehouse space — at 130-146 Alco Place in the Lansdowne Industrial Park. Merritt’s in-house leasing team of Jamie Campbell, Liz Tarran-Jones, Vince Bagli and Steve Shaw represented the landlord in both sets of negotiations.

The Link Builders LLC, a search engine optimization company, leased 1,005 square feet of office space at 10045 Red Run Blvd., in the Owings Mills Corporate Campus. Also, Facility Solutions Group Inc., an electrical contractor, leased 5,555 square feet of office and warehouse space at 8839 Kelso Drive, Suite J, in the Pulaski Industrial Park in Essex. Todd Evans of KLNB represented the tenant in the latter deal. Merritt Properties’ in-house leasing team of Pat Franklin, Whit Levering, Lou Boeri and Ashley Combs represented the landlord in both sets of negotiations.

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