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The Dripby Melody Simmons9:51 amApr 8, 20140

Office vacancy rates down in region, still high downtown

Above: Baltimore area office vacancy rates were down slightly from last year, but the center city office space market remains n the doldrums..

The Class A office vacancy rate in the metro area was posted at 13 percent, a recent Colliers International report said, down from 14.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

Much of the leasing is taking place downtown and in Anne Arundel County, where cyber security firms are putting down roots near Fort Meade and the National Security Agency, the report last week on the Baltimore office market said.

While those areas may be hot, office space in eastern Baltimore County and areas of Harford County north of the city are struggling with high vacancy rates, according to Colliers.

The report showed that office vacancy rates in upscale Harbor East, Fells Point and Canton were 12.45 percent — while Baltimore’s center city remained the area’s highest at just over 20 percent. That stubborn rate has been a source of stress for property owners there, now concerned about the massive proposed redevelopment of State Center.

That project was given a green light late last month by the state’s Court of Appeals following a bitter legal battle waged by the property owners and funded by attorney Peter G. Angelos.

The average rental rate for commercial space remained steady at $21.90 per square foot. The report cited the recent sale of 1 E. Pratt Street on the city’s waterfront for $58.7 million to Emmes Group as a boost to the city’s recent real estate activity.

Looking forward, development in certain parts of city could move ahead this year. Plans, for example, by Owings Mills developer David S. Brown Enterprises to raze the Morris A. Mechanic Theater are going forward this spring or early summer. There, the company plans to build a mixed-use residential and commercial development at Charles and Baltimore Streets in hopes of reviving the city’s core.

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