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January 13, 2010 

Boston-based Suffolk Construction, a $1.7B a year privately owned construction manager, announced Tuesday that it acquired Dietze Construction Group based in the Washington DC area.

Adding Dietze of Ashburn, Va. to its team working on the East and West Coasts gives Suffolk a staff of 1250 and the local market knowledge and client relationships to expand its presence in the Mid-Atlantic. Dietze has 17 years of experience working in sectors like government (including secure facilities), healthcare, education, and sci/tech, as well as commercial. It recently broke ground on the new 60k SF residential complex at Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farms Research Campus in Ashburn, above. Last year, 28-year-old Suffolk acquired William A. Berry in Danvers, which specializes in healthcare and sci/tech projects.

We spoke with Suffolk CEO John Fish this afternoon, and he tells us “It’s part of an overall strategic corporate vision." The soft economy led him to look beyond this period to a new norm. The "acquisitions and continued development of our technology platforms allows us to be more efficient than the competition."

Keller Augusta’s Jodi Dakin and Sarah Weatherbee

One way to know how the commercial real estate winds are blowing: talk to Keller Augusta’s Jodi Dakin, and Sarah Weatherbee. As a boutique CRE search firm, they know when Boston area jobs open up. In the past couple months, after a serious drought, they started to see hires for the $45K-a-year admin jobs cut in the prior 18 months. The development and construction hires have been for health care and life science projects. Noticeably absent, Jodi says, are the $60 to $200k jobs. But, she added, “It’s getting better. We’re not seeing hundreds of resumes coming in from people laid off.” This year, she expects hires in work-outs, acquisitions, and perhaps design and construction by Q3 or Q4.   

JLL's Brian Orr, Marzuq Muhammad, Paul Leonard, and Geoff Homer

Everyone relies on quarterly market data, but who actually compiles and makes sense of all those numbers? At JLL Boston, it’s Paul Leonard and his research team. We snapped Brian Orr, Marzuq Muhammad, Paul, and Geoff Homer (seated). Of course, in recent quarters the story is rents falling along with demand. For this cycle, “the only way it will get normal is when jobs turn positive,” Paul says. So how does he know that the average asking rent is $50 PSF in one Class A office building and $48 PSF in another . . .

They divvy up the work—Marzuq (Cambridge and north suburbs), Brian (downtown), and Geoff (web suburbs). Here Paul and Marzuq talk about data JLL has been compiling in Boston for 20 years. They search CoStar for the performance of each building in the JLL database. Paul says, "Once we determine which ones have changes, we do our own detective work." He and his crew team up with brokers to analyze the activity in each building, comparing lease terms and rent rates. Then they look at the big picture to identify market trends. Paul said, “I like to gather facts, try to understand trends others aren’t seeing, and create a story.


Send story ideas to Susan Diesenhouse, susan@bisnow.com

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