BWI magnetism Hot corridor: Commercial real estate market around airport is riding high.

February 21, 1996

THE BALTIMORE-WASHINGTON International Airport corridor is hot. The roller-coaster fortunes of commercial real estate around the airport in Linthicum are riding high right now. That was underscored by the recent announcement that the nation's largest owner and developer of industrial real estate plans to build a $12 million distribution center nearby.

"We believe we have a good understanding of the market's dynamics," said Security Capital Industrial Trust vice president David L. Welch.

The area's comeback from high vacancies of a few years ago -- "see-through office buildings," a former Anne Arundel County executive called them -- has been impressive. The vacancy rate is at an historic low of 5 percent and rents are increasing. Security's project is seen as the first in a wave of speculative building in the area.

The area's secret? Location, location, location, as the old real estate maxim says. It sits between two metropolitan areas, and is surrounded by a good network of local roads and interstate highways. Cargo and passenger air connections are superb, there is an Amtrak and MARC commuter station nearby and the Port of Baltimore is just up the road.

As in many other things in life, nothing succeeds like success. This is evident in the decisions of two major national chains to open new all-suites hotels in the corridor. Other hospitality chains are looking there, too.

By building in the BWI corridor, hotel chains can draw customers from a number of sources. They clearly benefit from the airport, which has become a strong hub for discount fare carriers, but also from its proximity to businesses and government installations such as the National Security Agency. The all-suites concept also appeals to families touring Baltimore or Washington. The extension of the Central Maryland light rail next year, linking the airport to Baltimore city and county, will also prove a boon.

The BWI corridor has become an increasingly important employment center in the region. Its strength is particularly satisfying because some of the area's older employers -- particularly Westinghouse -- have been undergoing a dramatic downsizing. What's happening on the ground near BWI is as significant as the success story in the air.

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