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July 8, 2008

Next Bisnow Lunch & Schmooze: with famed developers Jeffrey Abramson, Tower Companies; Marc Dubick, Duball; Jeff Zell, JM Zell; and Chris Molivadas, Jones Lang. July 17th. Noon. Tower Club. Special thanks to great sponsors HITT and PillsburySign up here!


If it's really true people are siphoning gasoline out of cars in this down economy, we guess the real estate version shouldn't surprise us: a rise in office crime. Initially, when Arlington police captains Frantz Desamour and Brian Berke told us about it the other day, we imagined they meant some stolen staplers or Post-It notes, but they're talking about much higher value stuff from both construction sites and occupied buildings.


Frantz and Brian met us at the County Justice Center in the Courthouse neighborhood of Arlington where happily we were not in traffic court. They say that onsite supplies like copper wire, construction tools, brass, and even scrap aluminum are targets, and that nothing is too bulky: sometimes crooks arrive in trucks. Nothing against subcontractors, but Frantz told us one thief was working the job legitimately and simply came back in the middle of the night because he knew where everything was.


Here's another picture of our friends, not because we didn't already show you what they look like, but because we are hoping a movie agent will see what a great buddy movie this would make and we will get large royalties. Anyway, we don't usually write about such things, but they told us that "sensor urinals" have become a hot item; in one case they say they caught a plumber stealing them right off the walls. He'd walk in during the day, detach one, leave loose pipes spraying water, and wheel it right out past security. Apparently they fetch a lot of money. They also say many times thieves will walk into a building or suite on the heels of authorized personnel and go unchallenged because they look the part.


We dropped by to see Grubb & Ellis in its new space at 1825 Eye (they moved earlier this spring). Broker Aaron Pomerantz tells us he and wife Irina are sponsoring a summer art program for at risk kids, bringing in Miami artist Jorge Perez-Rubio (a longtime friend of Aaron's) to help 20 students paint a huge mural in Alexandria. Incidentally, we knew the artist sounded familiar, Perez-Rubio's work adorns Studley honcho Rick Rome's office wall. 


We also wanted to get a shot of some of the up and coming young brokers (no offense, Aaron):  David Barkas, Theo Slagle, Lee Kimball, Ben Plaisted, Rachel Leyr, and Andy Boliek. Rachel spent the Fourth of July in the Outer Banks while Andy just got back from fun in the sun at Dewey.



Yesterday we swung by CBRE's DC HQ at the Victor Building to see DC/Baltimore research manager Rob Hartley, who told us his quarterly data show signs of VA and DC improvement, while suburban MD's a bit shakier:

  • DC:  Net absorption increased in Q2 to 358,911 SF compared to 131,323 SF Q1 thanks to CBD deals like Arent Fox's pre-lease of 255k SF and the East End's National Labor Relations Board renewal for 276k SF. Vacancy decreased in the District during the second quarter to 6.6%, largely due to the significant amount of pre-leasing in buildings that delivered during the quarter.
  • NoVa: Net absorption of 702k SF is good, but doesn't reflect the current market situation where demand has slowed. This quarter's high level of absorption is a result of build-to-suit activity that began two years ago. Three buildings, totaling 732,404 SF, delivered for single users and contributed to 90.2% of the quarter's net absorptions. Vacancy rose from 11.23% Q1 to 11.77% Q2, the result of over 1.8M SF of vacant space delivered year-to-date. However, demand in NoVa is expected to grow this year at higher levels than '07, as there is still tenant demand in the mid-size deal range creating enough expansion to offset the increased number of consolidations. 
  • Suburban MD: Net absorption totaled minus 735k SF, reversing 65% of all demand gains since the beginning of '07.  Vacancy rose to 11.38%, up from 10.46% Q1 and up 8.8% from the beginning of 2007. The delivery of new space (77k SF this quarter) accounted for 43.36% of the year-to-date increase in vacancy rates. Without these deliveries, vacancy rates would still be below 11%.



We finally ran out to Dulles to check on The Presidential golf course off Route 28, just a month old and aimed directly at business people. VP Scott Stephens took us on tour (perk disclosure: Kobe beef chili dogs for lunch). Course president is none other than our old friend Eric Wells, CEO of WestDulles Properties and former Chair of Northern Virginia NAIOP, although among the 14 investors are also techies and former Redskin Darrell Green. It's a three-year-old project that is just the second course in the country selling memberships strictly to corporations. But here's the best thing (okay, we admit it might be controversial): "Unlike most courses, we want players using their PDAs, cell phones, and laptops on the course," Eric says.

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