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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, January 7, 2013, 6:45 am

Commercial space market to see pockets of tightening in 2013

In demand in 2013: build-to-suits in Sonoma, warehouses in Napa

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    Chris Neeb, Haden Ongaro, Al Coppin

    Though the amount of office and industrial real estate available for lease remained at relatively high levels in 2012, the need for certain types of space could drive build-to-suit office projects in Sonoma County, distribution warehouses in Napa County and smaller office suites in large Marin County spaces.

    Health care, medical-device, other technology developers and services for the booming wine and tourism industries have been driving demand for Sonoma County office and industrial space, according to Al Coppin, president of Keegan & Coppin/ONCOR International.

    Though countywide vacancy rates were around 22 percent for office space and 13 percent for industrial options in the third quarter, down three-quarters of a point from a year before, companies looking for more than 10,000 square feet of top-class office space have relatively few options in the county.

    “Most of the vacancy factor is in functionally deficient buildings,” Mr. Coppin said. “A small inventory of buildings have been built in the last 10 years. There will be more build-to-suits going forward from companies looking for quality space.”

    High vacancy rates and aggressive competition for tenants in the past several years years spurred what many agents call a “flight to quality.” Upon lease renewals, a number of companies have been opting for as much or more nicer-quality space or taking available of what low-interest-rate money is available to own space instead of rent.

    Such build-to-suit activity in the works now includes American AgCredit’s planned 50,000-square-foot headquarters on land it purchased from Airport Business Center, Wine Country Shipping’s forthcoming 31,000-square-foot expansion via Airport Business Center in Windsor and talks for tens of thousands of medical office space in southwest Santa Rosa.

    Napa harvests demand for warehouses

    Pent-up demand for large-sized warehouse and distribution space in southern Napa Valley spurred a flurry of deal-making in 2012, according to Chris Neeb of Cushman & Wakefield.

    “Space options in south Napa and American Canyon are getting very tight if you’re looking for more than 50,000 square feet,” Mr. Neeb said.

    The brokerage estimated vacancy for that size of space in the county was 5.5 percent in the fourth quarter.

    Nearly 400,000 square feet in November and December leases and subleases by Trinchero Family Estates, Biagi Bros. Transportation & Warehousing, Groskopf Warehouse & Logistics and Coca-Cola Bottling helped fill a number of large long-standing south county industrial vacancies, including the 400,000-square-foot 50/80 Technology Ct. warehouse in south Napa and massive hilltop warehouses in American Canyon built by ICC/Stravinski.

    Health, games buoy Marin market

    San Francisco has been enjoying a boom in commercial real estate sales and leasing this year — the most in several years — and that activity has been spilling over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County. Preliminary estimates of fourth-quarter Marin office vacancy are 21 percent for the whole county, ranging from 10 percent in central Marin, which has relatively few leasing options, to 28 percent in Novato, which along with north San Rafael has several tenants marketing large blocks of space for sublease, according to Haden Ongaro, who oversees Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank’s North Bay offices.

    “Some game companies are coming back and growing, and the medical community continues to be more active,” said Haden Ongaro, who oversees Cornish & Carey Commercial Newmark Knight Frank’s North Bay offices.

    Game companies led by Take-Two Interactive’s 2K division, Activision Blizzard’s Toys for Bob and Telltale Games added tens of thousands of square feet in third- and fourth-quarter lease deals in San Rafael and Novato. As many as three health care companies are scouting Marin to lease a total of 70,000 square feet.

    Asking rents for Marin office space grew 8 percent on average during 2012, driven by early-year rent growth in southern and central Marin markets, Mr. Ongaro said. Asking rents in north and central San Rafael started rising late last year.

    The amount of Marin office space taken off the market last year was about zero for the year, as 80,000 square feet of net absorption in the fourth quarter offset the cumulative effect of a number of new leasing opportunities, according to Mr. Ongaro. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. added to 145,000 square feet already available for sublease in the third building at its Novato campus by 130,000 square feet in two floors of the second building. While Autodesk renewed its lease at 3900-3950 Civic Center Dr. in San Rafael, it put back on the market 45,000 of 70,000 square feet leased a year ago at 4040 Civic Center. Sutter Health renewed its lease for 75,000 square feet at 4000 Civic Center but made available 47,000 square feet for sublease.

    The limited amount of industrial space in Marin had a vacancy rate remained little changed at 7 percent at the end of the third quarter, according to Keegan & Coppin. Key industrial deals in Marin over the year was EO Products’ new plant in a former Industrial Light & Magic building in San Rafael and the sale of another ILM building, located at 3140 Kerner Blvd., to a company, Mr. Ongaro noted.

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