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Real Estate Weekly – 5/24/13

State readies $8.6M plan to aid Somerset Co. hurricane victims

The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development is putting the final touches on the state’s $8.6 million plan to help Somerset County residents recover from Hurricane Sandy, offering storm-struck victims a range of options according to their housing needs. Those options include replacing or rehabilitating storm-damaged homes, and purchasing the property of Smith Island residents who wish to move away from the floodplain. “Our goal is to help as many people as we can in as many ways as we can,” said DHCD Secretary Raymond A. Skinner. “This really is the right thing to do in terms of helping people in need.” The state will submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by June 10, after first getting comment from the public. Somerset County is the only county in the state eligible for federal assistance. Between 900 and 1,000 homes in Somerset County were damaged by the storm, according to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency reports and local officials, and many renters were temporarily displaced.

Forrester Construction completes columbarium at historic cemetery

Rockville-based Forrester Construction Co. announced the completion of construction of the Columbarium Court No. 9 in Arlington National Cemetery. The new, two-acre Columbarium Court is located at the corner of Patton and York drives, adjacent to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. The project, awarded to Forrester by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, required near-perfect quality and pristine finishes to ensure longevity and suitability in the greenscape of Arlington National Cemetery. The third project Forrester has built for this historic cemetery, work involved significant grading, landscaping, environmental management and installation of decorative and commemorative stonework, including flagstone walkways. The cemetery, which opened in 1864 and spans more than 624 acres, is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. Part of the cemetery’s long-term expansion plan, Columbarium Court No. 9 provides more than 20,000 niches that can hold three to four urns each.

$8 million renovation commences at Hyattsville’s Overlook Apartments

Overlook Apartments in Hyattsville has begun a major $8 million renovation project slated for completion in early 2014. Bethesda-based Ross Development & Investment, which has owned and managed the community with its affiliate Ross Management Services for the past 30 years, is working on completely repositioning the asset in the Hyattsville market. The massive renovation project, overseen by Ross Cos.’ affiliate Ross Renovation & Construction, encompasses new apartment interiors, renovation of common areas, the leasing center, and new landscaping and signage packages, plus new mechanical systems. Located on Ray Road, near Washington and College Park, Overlook Apartments is a 187-apartment community built in 1962. The community features all utilities included in the monthly rent and offers affordable housing based on certain income guidelines.

First Potomac Realty Trust announces 6M share offering

First Potomac Realty Trust announced it commenced an underwritten public offering of 6 million common shares of beneficial interest, and that it intends to grant the underwriters a 30-day option to purchase up to an additional 900,000 common shares at the public offering price, less the underwriting discount. The company intends to use the net proceeds of the offering to repay outstanding indebtedness consistent with its strategic and capital plan, including the amounts outstanding under its secured term loans and a portion of the amounts outstanding under its unsecured revolving credit facility, and for general corporate purposes.

Mural will depict Dundalk’s role in War of 1812

The Dundalk Renaissance Corp., in partnership with the greater Dundalk community, Baltimore County, the Baltimore County War of 1812 Bicentennial Advisory Committee and the Baltimore County Commission on Arts & Sciences, is commissioning a mural overlooking the historically significant Battle Acre Park. The mural will depict themes related to Dundalk’s role in the War of 1812 and will be painted on an exterior wall of the Charlesmont Shopping Center at 3115 North Point Road. The mural will be visible from Battle Acre Park and will be across the street from North Point State Battlefield, where the Battle of North Point was waged. An advisory committee will review artist proposals and present finalists to the community for input. Mural artists are being invited to submit proposals for this mural commission. Experienced mural artists over age 18 may submit proposals until Friday, May 31. An artists’ briefing packet is available online at www.dundalkusa.org/pub/DRCJobs. The mural is scheduled to be completed by Defenders Day, Sept. 12, 2014, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of North Point.

Host Hotels’ CFO Harvey stepping down

Hotels & Resorts Inc.’s chief financial officer, Larry Harvey, is stepping down from his post. Harvey, who will continue as an executive vice president until the third quarter, will hand over CFO responsibilities to Gregory Larson. Harvey had served as CFO since 2007. Larson, who has worked at Host Hotels since 1993, is currently executive vice president of corporate strategy. Aside from his current responsibilities, Chief Investment Officer Struan Robertson will now take on disposition efforts from Larson. Bethesda-based Host Hotels & Resorts is a lodging real estate investment trust that currently owns 103 properties in the U.S. and 15 properties overseas.

First Potomac sells industrial assets

First Potomac Realty Trust, a Bethesda-based real estate investment trust, said it is selling 24 industrial properties, comprising approximately 4.3 million square feet, for a total of $259 million. Twenty-three buildings comprising approximately 4 million square feet — 16 in southern Virginia, seven in the Baltimore-Washington corridor — are being acquired by an affiliate of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII for $241.5 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the second quarter. The 24th property, a 236,000-square-foot industrial building in Haymarket, Va., was sold to Columbia-based Corporate Office Properties Trust for $17.5 million. First Potomac said it intends to use the sales proceeds to repay debt and to acquire office buildings in the Washington region.

Hagerstown aircraft school expands

An aircraft maintenance school in Hagerstown is celebrating an expansion. The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics cut a ribbon Monday to open its new 18,000-square-foot building at Hagerstown Regional Airport. The school had been leasing about 15,000 square feet in a nearby building. Campus Operations Director Gary Hoyle said in September that the school was making a long-term commitment to the area. The school is based in West Mifflin, Pa. It opened its Hagerstown campus in 2011.

Stormwater fees limited in Anne Arundel

The Anne Arundel County Council voted Monday to limit new stormwater fees paid by commercial property owners to 25 percent of their property tax bill, and phase in homeowners’ fees. The Capital of Annapolis reported that property owners with bills of $500 or more will pay 60 percent in 2014, 80 percent in 2015 and 100 percent in 2016. The changes respond to protests to a bill passed over the county executive’s veto last month. A General Assembly bill passed last year directs 10 jurisdictions, including Anne Arundel County, to establish the fee by July 1 to pay for Chesapeake Bay watershed cleanup or face fines.

O.C. company to manage hotel portfolio

Real Hospitality Group, an Ocean City-based provider of property management and business development services for hotels, resorts and similar properties, announced it has been selected to manage hotels to be acquired as part of a nearly quarter billion dollar hotel investment fund. The relationship will expand RHG into new destination leisure markets. The fund itself was not identified by RHG in its announcement. RHG said resorts and both full- and select-service hotels are being evaluated to determine the best match to the acquisition objectives of the fund.

Reconstructed O.C. Fishing Pier to open

Ocean City officials will celebrate on Friday the reconstruction of the iconic Ocean City Fishing Pier. The official opening of the 489-foot-long pier will feature a ceremonial first cast of a fishing line by Mayor Rick Meehan. The pier was the only landmark casualty of last year’s Hurricane Sandy. People across the country watched as news outlets captured the pier collapsing into the Atlantic Ocean. Officials say the rebuilt pier will show no effects of the storm. The original fishing pier was completed in 1907, and had been a fixture of the Ocean City landscape until its demise in 2012.

COPT leases vacant building in Virginia

Corporate Office Properties Trust, of Columbia, said it has executed a lease with a subsidiary of an investment-grade Fortune 500 company for a 236,000-square-foot redevelopment property that it recently purchased in Haymarket, Va., in Prince William County. COPT purchased the vacant, single-story building from First Potomac Realty Trust, a Bethesda-based real estate investment trust. First Potomac sold a portfolio of 24 industrial buildings for $259 million. The Haymarket building was the only one not sold to an affiliate of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII. COPT paid $17.5 million for the Haymarket building, and will invest an additional $6 million to improve the structure to accommodate the unidentified tenant’s requirements.

PERSONNEL 

Christina Betancourt Johnson

Rebuilding Together Montgomery County, a nonprofit organization that provides free home repairs and modifications to low-income homeowners throughout Montgomery County, announced the selection of Christina Betancourt Johnson as its new executive director. She succeeds Susan Hawfield. who joined Rebuilding Together’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. Johnson formerly worked in marketing and communications at Global Impact, where she helped the Combined Federal Campaign raise more than $60 million for local, national and international charities. She also held leadership positions with United Way, the University of Dallas and the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership (formerly known as The Washington, D.C. Marketing Center). Christina earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Hampton University and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Dallas.

LEASES 

LifeBridge Health Inc., a health care organization, has signed a lease with Merritt Properties LLC for 16,800 square feet of office space at Timonium Business Park, 1946 Greenspring Drive, in Timonium. LifeBridge Health was represented in the negotiations by Lynn Abeshouse of Abeshouse Partners. Merritt’s in-house leasing team of Pat Franklin, Whit Levering, Lou Boeri and Ashley Combs represented the landlord.

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