Building permits plunge 43% for Feb.Remember the building...

COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

April 07, 1993|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

Building permits plunge 43% for Feb.

Remember the building permit statistics for January, which seemed to be pointing to an upturn in construction? This week, the February numbers are out, and the message isn't so good.

Nonresidential permit activity, measured by the buildings' value, fell 43 percent in February, compared to the same month last year, according to a report by Construction Market Data Inc. and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

The report said Carroll County, where a $1.5 million food store received a building permit in February, was the only local jurisdiction that saw more activity this February than last.

The biggest nonresidential project was a $2.2 million parking garage planned by North Arundel Hospital Association in Severna Park.

Residential building permits fell 26.6 percent, the report said. Local governments authorized 707 units during the month, which traditionally is one of the slowest of the year for the construction industry.

High Street warehouse to go on auction block

A. J. Billig & Co. will auction a 23,000-square-foot warehouse at 17 N. High St. at 2 p.m. April 15.

Auctioneer Jack Billig says the auction house is pitching the building as a rehabilitation opportunity, most likely for a retail or warehouse use.

"It's an interesting area," Mr. Billig said. "Why it hasn't developed more I don't know."

Downtown draws another federal tenant

Another federal tenant has helped a downtown office building resolve vacancy problems. The General Services Administration has signed a lease at 300 W. Pratt St., helping developer Dan Stone push occupancy to 81 percent.

The 61,400-square-foot building, which reopened in late 1989 after being rehabilitated and expanded, struggled along through much of the recession. But Mr. Stone says the building now has only about 10,000 square feet left. The GSA lease was for 4,600 square feet.

The government will use the space to house part of the administrative offices of the U.S. District Court while the Garmatz federal courthouse building is being renovated. The government signed a three-year lease with a two-year option to extend it, Mr. Stone said.

Federal agencies have provided a floor under the Class A office market throughout 1992. The Drug Enforcement Administration, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Office of Personnel Management have all leased space downtown. Many of the moves are aimed at moving agencies out of the Garmatz building to accommodate the growth of the U.S. District Court.

In other news, the Strapazza restaurant will open later this month in the small, white building with the cast-iron facade that stands across Pratt Street from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Strapazza, a pizzeria and inexpensive Italian restaurant that already had outlets in Towson and Annapolis, opened a Charles Street location last month.

Construction firms still slow to pay bills

The recovery may be in sight, but one indicator says things aren't too good yet: Construction companies are still slow to pay their bills.

Dun & Bradstreet Information Services says construction companies' bill-paying performance was still weakening during the fourth quarter of 1992, the most recent for which information is available. Those companies had the worst bill-paying record of seven industries studied.

"The recent improvement in housing starts has apparently not helped the construction industry pay its bills in a more timely fashion," Dun & Bradstreet's report said. "The dismal commercial construction sector is the likely culprit behind this lackluster performance."

The construction industry's score was a negative 11. That means that there's a spread of 11 percentage points between the ratings of companies that are paying bills more slowly and of those that have speeded up payments. For example, 50 percent of the companies might be paying bills more slowly, and 39 percent might be paying more quickly.

Real estate companies are doing better, though. Companies in that category, which includes apartment complexes and home brokerage firms, scored a negative 2.2, best of the industries covered.

Building owners convene here in June

The Building Owners and Managers Association is bringing its international convention to Baltimore June 25-30, a gathering expected to attract about 2,500 people.

"BOMA Baltimore lobbied very hard for four or five years to bring this meeting here," said Tom Shaner, executive director of the group's local chapter. "Once [leaders of the international association] came and looked, we kept up our pressure."

The convention, which features gabmeister Larry King as a keynote speaker, will be held jointly with the association's international office building show. A trade show for makers of office maintenance products from elevators to window washing products may not promise the entertainment punch of a lifetime. But Mr. Shaner says the city's location between New York and Washington has helped organizers sell out the show already.

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