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Commercial real estate pros to help COVID-19 relief efforts find space

A leading association for commercial real estate professionals said Thursday it is launching efforts to connect nonprofits and philanthropic organizations with space to organize relief efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors launched the Community Assistance and Relief in Emergencies program, which allows organizations to post their space needs on SIOR’s website. Professionals in the region where the groups are operating will then provide advice, pertinent contacts, or even alert a property owner to find space so these agencies can quickly assist hard-hit communities.

“SIOR has a history of stepping up in times of crisis,” SIOR Global President Mark Duclos said in a statement. “Our organization was founded during World War II with the goal of assisting the nation in fulfilling critical space needs for the government. Today, we are in a new global crisis, one that calls upon all of us to do our part.

The Maryland Department of Health confirmed 107 cases of the new coronavirus in the state and one death from the illness. So far 56 of those infections have happened in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in the Washington suburbs.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, however, has been on the rise in the Baltimore metro area. So far 16 cases have been reported in Howard County, 12 in Baltimore County and five in Anne Arundel County. Currently eight cases have been confirmed in Baltimore.

Gov. Larry Hogan Thursday ordered all malls and shopping centers closed as of 5 p.m., banned public gatherings of more than 10 people and restricted mass transit services to first responders and essential workers.

SIOR said the goal of its CARE program is to help such groups as emergency medical organizations, food distribution groups and shelters find space to launch aid efforts in as little as a few hours.

“We all have an obligation to reach out in the community, identify where and how we can facilitate support, and rally together to share ideas,” Duclos said.

Efforts by SIOR come as the commercial real estate industry, like almost every business sector, faces an uncertain future in trying to recover from the damage done to the nation’s businesses by the disease.

Currently the local businesses sector hurt the worst is service and hospitality, especially restaurants, bars and hotels. A survey of more than 100 small businesses  taken by the Baltimore Development Corp. found that small business revenues on average are down 65%, with 30% expecting to reduce their workforce if the pandemic isn’t under control in a matter of weeks.

Those struggles are expected to reverberate through other parts of the economy, including the real estate sector. At least one major transaction, however, has been announced since the COVID-19 outbreak swept into Maryland.

A joint venture partnership between Atapco Properties Inc. and Chesapeake Real Estate Group LLC sold the Nottingham Logistics Center for $71.65 million. The partnership purchased the former site from Paragon Outlets in 2018 and built two Class A warehouse/industrial buildings totaling more than 750,000 square feet.

Matthew Laraway, executive vice president and partner at Chesapeake Real Estate Group and a SIOR member, recently said the industrial sector may face challenges amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Demand for distribution space, he said, may fall off because of delays in the global supply chain and as companies focus on liquidity and decide not to sign leases.

There’s potential, Laraway said, for the virus to push people to do more online shopping. If the supply chain doesn’t collapse and online stores can meet demand, it may potentially boost demand for distribution space.

“That asset class may be a little more stable than others,” Laraway said.

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