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|Articles - June 2011|
|Wednesday, May 18, 2011|
Page 4 of 4If Sturgeon and Moyer can convince their family, tenants and lenders to support Park Avenue West, there are some broader trends working in the company’s favor.
Market researchers and local economists note that Portland, like cities all over the country, is substantially under building commercial space as a result of the credit crunch, following a few years of below-average commercial construction during the last period of growth. All of that will lead to heavy demand for new space in the coming years and a “mini-boom” in construction, Portland economist Bill Conerly wrote recently in his blog.
By the end of this year, the office vacancy rate in downtown Portland is projected to be 9.3%, the lowest of any major U.S. business district besides Manhattan’s midtown south, according to commercial real estate brokers Cushman & Wakefield. Some market reports for the first quarter of 2011 listed the luxury Class A vacancy rate in Portland as low as 6.3%. Just a handful of multi-floor spaces are left in existing high-end towers in Portland’s core. When the next big client, such as Iberdrola Renewables or a city department, decides to move, “They basically require a new building,” says Tom Usher, Cushman-Wakefield’s senior director in Portland.
The pent-up demand for Class A space meant gold for Shorenstein Properties, which recently sold its building at First and Main for $129 million or $350 per square foot.
And that now means lenders are opening up to new commercial construction deals in Portland.
“I know a number of lenders are open to a deal. They are just looking for the right deal,” says John Petersen, a mortgage banker who heads Melvin Mark Capital. But Petersen also says that potential creditors and tenants have to overcome lingering doubts about the overall state of the economy before a new building becomes a reality. “It takes a turn of psychology,” he says.
In the meantime, Vanessa Sturgeon and TMT wait, and she tries to look at the moment through Tom Moyer’s 92-year-old eyes.
“He’s seen the economy go through cycles like this many times, including the Depression, so two or three years don’t make a big difference to him.” she says. “This is just one more cycle.”
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