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Real Estate Weekly – 7/27/12

Mahan Rykiel creates plan for Children’s Inn playground

Mahan Rykiel Associates Inc., a Baltimore-based landscape architecture, urban design and planning firm, designed a new playground/park for children seeking treatment at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda. The first phase of the Children’s Inn playground was completed Monday by more than 150 volunteers from Gaithersburg-based biotech Medimmune Inc. KaBOOM, a national nonprofit that builds playgrounds for children in need, organized the volunteer effort. The Children’s Inn is where families stay while seriously ill kids receive treatment and participate in medical research at NIH. Mahan Rykiel worked with Poltronieri Tang & Associates, a Swarthmore, Pa.-based planning and design firm, in creating the master plan for the Children’s Park. The two firms will continue to work together on future phases.

State awards grants to heritage areas

The Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, which oversees Maryland’s 12 locally administered, state-certified heritage areas, awarded 63 matching grants totaling $2.7 million to nonprofits, local jurisdictions and other heritage tourism organizations. The funds support heritage tourism projects and activities that expand economic development and tourism-related job creation throughout the state. Heritage areas are places in which the authentic heritage of Maryland is displayed in a unique way. These include buildings and districts, archaeological sites, museums, parks, and natural landscapes, as well as traditional ways of life experienced in food, music and art. Baltimore and 21 Maryland counties have a state-certified heritage area within their boundaries.

Northrop Grumman donates $40K for rehab program in Sandtown

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. donated $40,000 to Sandtown Habitat for Humanity as part of the company’s ongoing partnership with the Sandtown neighborhood restoration project. The Northrop Grumman contribution will be used to help pay for the renovation of a house on North Gilmor Street. This will be the fifth house Northrop Grumman has sponsored in the Sandtown project in West Baltimore, bringing the company’s total contribution to $190,000 since 2004. During Summer Build Week, employees of Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector in Linthicum donated their time and energy to help with ongoing Northrop Grumman-sponsored home renovation projects in the Sandtown community.

Baltimore bus depot replacement funded

(AP) Maryland is getting $40 million to replace an aging Baltimore bus depot, U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood announced Monday. The federal funds are part of a $787 million package to repair and modernize transit infrastructure nationwide. The Maryland Department of Transportation will use the grant to replace a 65-year-old bus depot with two environmentally friendly buildings that will cut operating costs, provide construction jobs and help maintain new energy-efficient buses. State officials said the funding also will help address concerns by neighbors about noise and pollution from the depot. The state is also getting $1.65 million for safety and accessibility improvements to the Cherry Hill Transit Hub, which connects bus and light rail service.

New fund, new investment opportunities

Federal Capital Partners, of Chevy Chase, a privately held real estate investment company that has invested in or financed more than $3 billion in assets since its founding in 1999, announced the closing of FCP Realty Fund II L.P., a $529.2 million fund targeting multifamily, office, retail and industrial opportunities throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Fund II has closed 14 investments, using $103 million of fund equity and representing value of $367 million. When fully invested, the fund is expected to accommodate approximately $1.5 billion of total investments.

Fort Ritchie plan goes back to Square 1

(AP) Ownership of the former Fort Ritchie Army base in Cascade, about 70 miles northwest of Washington, is reverting to a public authority after private redevelopment plans fell through. The state-sponsored PenMar Development Corp. said Tuesday it reached a settlement with Columbia-based Corporate Office Properties Trust, which agreed in 2006 to buy the 591-acre site for $9 million. COPT’s plan for an office park for defense and national security contractors was stalled by environmental issues. PenMar received $5 million initially. It said COPT paid another $2 million to walk away from the deal. PenMar said it’s devising a new strategy for redeveloping the site.

Baja Fresh opens in Frederick

Baja Fresh Mexican Grill, an Irvine, Calif.-based quick-casual Mexican restaurant chain, has opened its newest restaurant in Frederick. The 2,616-square-foot restaurant at 5595 Spectrum Drive, near the Francis Scott Key Mall, offers fresh Mexican flavors for lunch, dinner, dine-in or take-out. Jamshed Shah, a restaurateur who formerly owned a Baja Fresh franchise in Bethesda, is in charge of the new Frederick location. Baja Fresh Mexican Grill operates or franchises 230 restaurants in 25 states as well as Dubai and Singapore

DiamondRock’s results improve in Q2

DiamondRock Hospitality Co., of Bethesda, a lodging-focused real estate investment trust that owns upscale and luxury hotels, reported improved second-quarter results due to higher occupancy and increased room rates at its hotels. Funds from operations — a key measure of a REIT’s financial performance — rose to $30 million from $21.1 million in the prior-year’s quarter. Adjusted FFO, excluding special items and one-time charges, was $34.2 million, or 20 cents per share, versus $25.6 million, or 15 cents per share, in the 2011 period. Revenue totaled $185.5 million, compared to $150.2 million in the year-ago period.

School libraries to get upgrade funds

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, of Baltimore, one of the largest private foundations in the United States, said it will donate $5 million to build a dozen new libraries in Baltimore elementary schools over the next four years. Each library will contain not only reading materials and customized furnishings, but also Nook e-readers and computers, and an “Enoch Pratt Parent Place” for parents and guardians. This is an expansion of the existing Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project, in which nearly 30 businesses, nonprofits and government partners are teamed with Baltimore City Public Schools to improve public school libraries’ facilities and programming.

COPT sells 24 properties, acquires one

Corporate Office Properties Trust, of Columbia, an office real estate investment trust primarily focused on serving U.S. government and defense information technology tenants, announced that it has completed the disposition of 24 operating properties and the Fort Ritchie development, all located in Maryland, for gross proceeds of approximately $179 million. The operating properties contained an aggregate of 1.5 million square feet and were 83.8 percent occupied (90 leases) at the time of sale. The company also announced its acquisition of a five-story, 202,000-square-foot, Class A office building in Herndon, Va., for $49.6 million.

Plan unveiled to cut schools’ energy use

The Maryland Energy Administration unveiled a $25 million plan to reduce the energy consumption of Maryland public school districts. The new green schools initiative is part of the Public Schools Capital Planning budget. The MEA expects to save more than $80 million during the life of the measures. The money is available to all Maryland public school districts through the MEA and the Maryland Public School Construction program. “Greening Maryland’s schools with energy-efficient light bulbs and HVAC system upgrades will accelerate our progress towards Maryland’s Empower goal of reducing energy consumption 15 percent by 2015, and will provide long-term utility cost savings for schools,” said MEA Director Malcolm Woolf.

Amtrak proposes Union Station upgrade

(AP) Amtrak is proposing a $7 billion upgrade of the 105-year-old Union Station in Washington to turn it into a high-speed rail hub for the Northeast. The plan calls for doubling the number of trains the station can accommodate, the Washington Post reported. Amtrak would add new platforms, tracks and stores. Six tracks for high-speed rail would be added. There would also be a 50-foot-wide, 100-foot-long glass-enclosed main concourse. A developer is also planning a $1.5 billion complex of offices, residential towers and a hotel that would be built on a deck over the tracks. Amtrak has not said how the project would be funded.

Plan for new Hagerstown stadium advances

(AP) Hagerstown Mayor Robert Bruchey says the city is making “great headway” toward construction of a downtown stadium to keep minor league baseball in the Western Maryland city. Bruchey said that there’s a “better than 50-50” chance that the framework for a lease with the Hagerstown Suns will be ready by mid-August, the Herald-Mail of Hagerstown reported. Winchester, Va., is also courting the Suns, a Class-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Hagerstown and Washington County have committed $16 million toward a proposed $30 million stadium to replace 80-year-old Municipal Stadium, the Suns’ home since 1981. The project also would require state and private funding.

COPT reports profitable second quarter

Corporate Office Properties Trust, of Columbia, a real estate investment trust primarily focused on serving U.S. government and defense information technology tenants, reported second-quarter funds from operations rose to $46.1 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, from $37 million, or 44 cents per diluted share, in the 2011 period. Net income was $11.9 million, or 9 cents per diluted share, on revenue of $133.4 million, versus a loss of $26 million, or 42 cents per diluted share, on revenue of $137.1 million in the prior-year period. Five analysts polled by Thomson Reuters on average forecast this year’s second-quarter earnings of 13 cents per share on revenue of $137.2 million.

Half-billion dollar loan to Host Hotels

Host Hotels & Resorts Inc., of Bethesda, a lodging real estate investment trust that owns upscale and luxury full-service hotel properties, said it closed on a $500 million term loan through an amendment and restatement of its existing credit facility. The term loan has a five-year maturity and a floating interest rate that is approximately 2 percent, Host said. Proceeds from the loan will be used to repay a portion of a draw on a revolving line of credit used by Host in its recent acquisition of the 888-room Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., as well as to redeem $400 million of senior notes.

Whole Foods to open store in Columbia

Whole Foods Market Inc., of Austin, Texas, the world’s largest natural food chain, will open a store in Columbia, its first in Howard County, in about two years, it was announced Thursday by county officials and representatives of the Howard Hughes Corp., a successor to the defunct Rouse Co. that developed Columbia. Whole Foods will lease 45,000 square feet in the former Rouse headquarters, a 151,000-square-foot building originally designed by architect Frank Gehry. The store will be an anchor of a redeveloped downtown Columbia, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said. Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc. recently opened a 135,000-square-foot supermarket in Columbia.

PERSONNEL

Col. J. Richard “Trey” Jordan III has assumed command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, from Col. David E. Anderson. Anderson, who has commanded the Baltimore District for the past three years, retired after 26 years of service in the military. As district engineer, Jordan will oversee engineering, construction and real estate activities for the Army, Air Force and other defense organizations in the District of Columbia, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, southern New York and Northern Virginia. He is also responsible for water resources development within the upper Chesapeake Bay watershed, which embraces a six-state area and the District of Columbia.

LEASES

VTS-VM LLC, an IT placement/recruiting firm, leased 2,987 square feet of office space at 8840 Stanford Boulevard, Suite 3150, in Merritt Properties’ Columbia Corporate Park. Merritt’s in-house leasing team of Jamie Campbell, Liz Tarran-Jones, Vince Bagli and Steve Shaw handled the negotiations for the landlord, while Dave Fields of CBRE represented the tenant.

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