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Weschke takes development helm in county

Baltimore County’s chief economic development officer, Dan Gundersen, resigned this week, county officials said.

Gundersen, in office for nearly two years, had been on a personal leave for weeks, a county spokeswoman said, and tendered his resignation Oct. 16, effectively immediately.

While in office, he left his mark by overseeing formation of an economic development strategic plan for the county’s diverse sectors. He was previously was an economic development official in New York.

Another executive in the department, Helga Weschke, has been appointed acting director.

While that transition plays out, county officials announced this week that Synagro has moved its corporate headquarters to White Marsh from Houston.

The company has more than 800 employees in 34 states who monitor functions at more than 600 municipal and industrial water and wastewater facilities, and the move will add 50 new jobs to the metro area for a total of 100 positions. The headquarters is located at the growing, 1,000-acre St. John Properties Baltimore Crossroads development near Interstate 95 and Martin State Airport.

Vacancy rates for flex office space and warehouse distribution facilities in the Baltimore region declined slightly this past month to 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively, according to a market report this week from Cushman & Wakefield.

Prominent was the leasing by Global Experience Specialists Inc. of 76,774 square feet of office space at 4801 Hollins Ferry Rd. and a 30,000-square-foot lease by National Parcel Logistics at 7466 Candlewood Rd.

Overall, the statistics for the Baltimore-Washington corridor show that the area held 84 percent of the Baltimore market’s overall net absorption in the third quarter, which was positive at 591,711 square feet, the report said. “Year-to-date overall net absorption also remained positive at 3.3 million square feet,” the report said.

A report this week by a national housing data group showed a 14 percent jump in the sale of residential properties across the U.S. over the past year.

RealtyTrac’s September 2013 U.S. Residential & Foreclosure Sales Report showed dwellings that include single family homes, condominiums and townhomes sold with a national median price of $174,000. Distressed — foreclosed or bank-owned residential properties — sold at a median price of $112,000, the report said, and such properties accounted for 25 percent of all residential sales in September.

“Distressed sales remain persistently high, particularly short sales,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

“Markets with the biggest increases in short sales tend to be those where either foreclosure starts or scheduled foreclosure auctions have rebounded in the last 18 months — translating into more motivated short sellers — or those with a still-high percentage of underwater homeowners with negative equity.”

Overall, Blomquist added: “The housing market continues to skew in favor of investors, particularly deep-pocketed institutional investors, and other buyers paying with cash. While the institutional investors are pulling back their purchases in many of the higher-priced markets — places like San Francisco, Washington, D.C., New York, Seattle and Sacramento — they are continuing to ramp up purchases in markets where median prices are still below $200,000 — places like Jacksonville, Atlanta, Charlotte, St. Louis and Dallas. The availability of distressed inventory also makes a difference.”

It’s not rocket science, but experts in house staging say that certain amenities such as upgraded kitchens with modern appliances, security cameras, laundry facilities and free Wi-Fi are the incentives needed to attract renters to certain properties as the residential rentals market continues to forge ahead.

As the real estate market evolves in fits and starts after the mortgage crisis, the foreclosure wave and the recession, such incentives are being added to deals to help seal them, said Al Goldstein, CEO of Pangea Properties, a real estate investment trust whose apartment locations include the Baltimore area.

“The rental market has become increasingly competitive,” Goldstein said in a statement. “We’ve found that including amenities has helped boost our reputation and goes a long way with not only our residents, but in building goodwill throughout the communities we serve. Word of mouth is a powerful tool when reaching out to new renters, but it is often underutilized.”

Goldstein added that other perks have been added to the mix: “We have programs for our residents that afford them incentives such as rental credits, savings and other benefits. Sometimes, those little extras can add up to being a huge factor.”

TIDBITS: This weekend, the spectacular Our Lady of the Angels Chapel at the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville will note the centennial of the laying of the cornerstone of the chapel. Designed by Murphy and Olmsted, a firm of architects noted for commissions for the Catholic Church that included Frederick V. Murphy, father of the late Baltimore architect Michael Murphy and prominent Baltimore attorney John C. Murphy, the church has a 68-foot dome and stone, brick, limestone and marble interior completed in the 1920s. The quality of the finish of the marble interior of the nave and sanctuary has been has been compared to that in Library of Congress. … The nonprofit Structura will begin a tree planting spree Friday as the first of 25 saplings is planted in Johnston Square on the East Side of downtown as a gift to Mi Casa, which recently completed a 30-house redevelopment of vacant and decaying structures there. … Certified appraiser Dawn Marie Miller recently joined Champion Realty as a full-service residential agent in the Annapolis office. … Get ready for a Halloween tour of downtown’s Westminster Hall and its burial grounds beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday. That’s where Edgar Allan Poe and Gen. James McHenry have their final resting places, of course, but there is more to see in the historic Gothic church that opened in 1852. The event is sponsored by the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Admission is $5 and includes a dramatic reading of Poe’s “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Monkey’s Paw.”