Reflecting high unemployment rates in the North Bay, the office real estate market has been waking up from little activity in 2009, but vacancy rates are expected to remain high for a while.

Inside Napa, the office vacancy rate is nearly 20 percent for more than 700,000 square feet of space and has been rising slowly since 2008, according to Coldwell Banker Commercial Brokers of the Valley.

"Amenity-challenged office spaces are seeing virtually no offers," said Terry Bremer Allison, manager of the brokerage's commercial division. "On a positive note, presently, there is not an abundance of office space for sublease."

In the business parks around Napa County Airport, office vacancy edged up to 14.6 percent of nearly 2.5 million square feet from 14.3 percent in the first quarter and about 13 percent in mid-2009, according to Keegan & Coppin.

For the 3 million square feet of office space in Solano and south Napa counties, the second-quarter vacancy rate is expected to be about the same as the 26.6 percent in the first quarter, according to Colliers International.

Marin County's office vacancy rate is estimated to be about the same as it was at the beginning of this year, or between 22 percent and 23 percent, according to Haden Ongaro of Cornish & Carey Commercial.

"We're in stabilization vacancy-wise," he said. He said he believes most of the bad news in the market has passed, "but I don't see rents starting to increase until we get some job growth. We will see vacancy around these levels for a while."

However, deals in the works could change the picture considerably in the third quarter, according to Mr. Ongaro. Two deals for the once-vacant 125,000-square-foot Wood Hollow Corporate Center in Novato are pending, and five deals are pending for the recently acquired Rowland Plaza office center also in Novato. Deals are solidifying in 4000 and 4040 Civic Center in San Rafael as well.

Taking advantage of good pricing, engineering firm Mactec inked a sublease deal for nearly 16,000 square feet of former Tellabs space at 1465 N. McDowell Blvd. in a lateral move from similarly sized space in Petaluma, according to Cassidy Turley BT Commercial's Trevor Buck, who was one of the brokers of the deal.

The office property investment market has been dominated by challenged-property deals, such as those The Blackstone Group recently turned back over to lenders in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, Rowland Plaza in Novato and the Cisco Systems campus in Petaluma.

"We do not have fully leased office buildings with a good story to test the markets," Mr. Ongaro said.