Although downtown Baltimore, like other parts of the metropolitan area, experienced increased vacancies during the recession, Wille said the city center still was holding onto important tenants. In the past year, insurance and financial services firm Transamerica, law firms Ober¿Kaler and Miles & Stockbridge, and PNC Bank all have moved, or signed on to move, to space along Pratt Street, he pointed out.
Even if it's not easy to find companies that have expanded in downtown, it's a good sign that major players are sticking around, Wille said.
Harbor East, the mixed-use complex that has sprouted up at the end of President Street over the last decade and lured Legg Mason from the central business district, also is continuing to thrive. According to Cushman & Wakefield's calculation, Harbor East's vacancy rate is now about 10 percent — compared to a vacancy rate of more than 18 percent in the more established business district centered on Pratt Street.
"Harbor East was very hot during the first and second quarter," Wille said. "It did cool off a little bit in the third quarter, but I think long term they're going to continue to see activity."
One region of Baltimore that will hurt for some time is the business district above Lombard Street, away from the Inner Harbor, Manekin said. Vacancy in that zone is as high as 35 percent, analysts say.
Sequestration or not, there's only one way to reduce the amount of empty space in older buildings that are farther from the Inner Harbor, Manekin said.
"The growth of the economy, the demand for more space, is the only way those issues are going to be addressed," he said.
Office vacancy in metro Baltimore, Q3 2012
Inventory (square feet)Vacancy rateAverage rental rate (per square foot)
Source: Cushman & Wakefield of Maryland Inc.