Choice of builder near for State Farm officesState Farm...

COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

June 23, 1993|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Staff Writer

Choice of builder near for State Farm offices

State Farm Insurance Co. is close to deciding who will get to build its 402,000-square-foot regional headquarters in Frederick, and a Virginia construction company appears to have the upper hand.

State Farm spokeswoman Shari Wisnewski says Manhattan Construction Co. of Fairfax last week submitted what appears to be the low bid at $28.1 million. But the deal won't be final until State Farm's home office in Illinois goes over the seven competing bids. George Hyman Construction Co. of Bethesda was the only Maryland bidder.

"We think in two to four weeks we'll be in a position to release the name," she said. "The high bid was about $31 million."

State Farm plans to move 650 workers into the complex, which will sit on more than 100 now-vacant acres near the corner of U.S. 15 and Route 26. That's roomy for 650 workers -- conventional wisdom says 400,000 square feet can handle about 1,500.

Ms. Wisnewski confirms that State Farm is planning for future growth. But she says the company isn't prepared to say how much its regional headquarters, now at 800 Oak St. in Frederick, will be expanding.

Hyman to build 'halls' for Texas Supercollider

The Superconducting Supercollider will make possible previously unimagined scientific breakthroughs (or so its backers say). But George Hyman Construction's part in the project is more mundane: It's building, in essence, the world's biggest subway stop for the world's littlest "trains."

Hyman on June 8 won a $55.5 million contract to build two Supercollider Experimental Halls for the U.S. Department of Energy at the project, near Dallas.

When the Supercollider is finished, subatomic particles, protons, will race around a 50-mile racetrack-shaped tunnel and scientists will arrange for them to collide inside the Hyman-built halls at nearly the speed of light.

Although scientific work inside the halls will be cutting-edge, the engineering that gets them in place is fairly routine.

"It's like the Shot Tower subway station," said Allan Sylvester, foundation department manager for Hyman, which is building that, too. "It's just a whole order of magnitude bigger."

Hyman, he says, has a long track record in "cut and cover" construction, which is like tunneling but done so that workers always have air, rather than dirt, over their heads. That's how subway stations are usually built.

But this is no ordinary cut-and-cover job. Each hall is to be 345 feet long, 115 feet wide and 225 feet deep, two miles apart.

"Imagine a football field that goes into the ground 25 stories deep," Mr. Sylvester said. "And there are two of them." He says the job will take three years to complete and will use about 240 million pounds of concrete.

Hyman spokeswoman Louise Pulizzi says the job, like Hyman's $77 million of work on a new FBI records center in West Virginia, will help lessen the firm's reliance on the Washington area.

Industrial vacancies at 26%, Pinkard says

The conventional wisdom is that the industrial market is improving, but a new report by W. C. Pinkard & Co. makes clear that the recovery has a long way to go.

The regional brokerage firm says there are 9.5 million square feet of unleased industrial and warehouse space in metropolitan Baltimore as midyear approaches, for a 26 percent vacancy rate. Conditions in the market for "flex space," which is designed for tenants who need a mix of finished offices and production/warehouse space, are not much better. Flex vacancy at 21 percent.

The study was Pinkard's first analysis of the industrial market, and its numbers are gloomier than those offered at year-end by competitor Casey & Associates. Casey put the year-end industrial vacancy rate at 18.6 percent, using a bigger sample.

But things are not that gloomy, says Michael A. Elardo, Pinkard assistant vice president. His reasons: Much of the vacancy comes from a few large buildings, and a number of large users now looking are likely to fill some empty spaces by the end of 1993.

Printing Industries moving to Timonium

Notes on this week's real estate news:

* A. J. Billig & Co. will auction the 6,400-square-foot building at 2421-2423 Maryland Ave. on June 30. Auctioneer Daniel Billig says it's not a distress sale; the owner, Printing Industries of Maryland and Pennsylvania Inc. is moving to Timonium.

* The state of Maryland awarded a $4 million contract last week to build a parking garage at the University of Baltimore to H. A. Harris Co. Inc. of Towson. The 505-space garage will be at the corner of Maryland Avenue and Biddle Street, on the site of the former Pat Hayes Buick showroom. Work will begin this summer and wrap up next June.

* The Bank of Baltimore now owns the site of Johnny's Auto Sales in Northeast Baltimore. The bank bought in two properties controlled by colorful car dealer "Handsome Johnny" Wilbanks last week for $545,000 after he defaulted on two loans totaling about $1.2 million. The dealership was once Maryland's largest used-car operation.

* The auction of 70 Baltimore-Washington area commercial properties by DeCaro Real Estate Auctions and Carey Winston Co. is set for today. Among the Baltimore properties on the list is the old Equitable Building at 10 N. Calvert St.

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