P. Fred K. Obrecht & Son is proceeding with plans to build a warehouse/manufacturing business park in the Rosedale area of Baltimore County.
The chilly climate for real estate is not dissuading the Timonium-based developer from moving ahead to construct two warehouse buildings on 13 acres off Pulaski Highway, to be called Schafer Business Center.
"We're in for permits," said Tom Obrecht, a general partner in the firm. "We're not afraid to build in a down market."
Despite a loss of manufacturing jobs, eastern Baltimore County remains a strong area for warehouse construction, he said.
For one, land in the eastern section of the county is cheaper than comparable land in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, about $70,000 to $80,000 an acre compared with $200,000.
"That makes it easier for your numbers to work," Obrecht said.
Vacancy rates on the east side for warehouse space are also generally lower than in other areas, Obrecht said. The vacancy rate in eastern Baltimore County is about 10 percent compared with 15 to 20 percent vacancy rates in the Washington, D.C.-Virginia area.
"When the new [Ft. McHenry] tunnel opened" in 1985, he said, "that really made the east side come alive. Before that, people typically stayed away from the east side, because of the bottleneck of the Harbor Tunnel."
The firm's plans call for the construction of a 169,000-square foot building and a 50,000-square foot building, beginning in spring.
Although the developer is marketing the property primarily as warehouse-storage space, the land is zoned heavy industrial and the firm is open to manufacturing tenants, Obrecht said.
Schafer Business Center will be on Todd Lane, just off the 8200 block of Pulaski Highway. The property has rail access, Obrecht said.
Obrecht said his firm is negotiating with several possible tenants for the project, although none have yet signed a lease.
"We're very close with a couple," he said. "The interest is there. It's not as fast and furious as it was in the past, but it has been active."
Pat Winter, executive director of the Eastern Baltimore Area Chamber of Commerce, said the economy has stalled many building projects.
"The economy has really slowed things down considerably," Winter said. "It's really an iffy time right now."
Winter said one problem is that lenders now are insisting on signed leases from tenants before they approve loans to build new shopping centers or other developments.
But that is not a problem facing Obrecht & Son. They have the financing in place, despite having no signed tenants. Provident Bank is the lender on the project, Tom Obrecht said.