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CHICAGO-In the suburbs, the refrain among leasing agents is “where have all the tenants gone,” says CB Richard Ellis office broker Ted Buenger. After strong net absorption and falling vacancy rates, there actually was 1,000 sf of negative net absorption in the first quarter, Buenger told the Real Estate Investment Association recently.

“Our leasing brokers say the pipeline’s not that strong, and they don’t expect much more this year,” Buenger says.

Factoring in sublease space put on the market, most notably more than 122,000 sf by Commonwealth Edison in Oak Brook, the vacancy rate in the East-West Corridor is 17.4% Buenger says. The O’Hare submarket checks in at 15.1%, a shade higher than the north suburbs’ 15%. So far, the northwest suburbs are the strongest market outside the city with a 13.5% vacancy, according to Buenger’s report.

That compares to an availability rate of 13.9% for Downtown, according to a recent market report by Insignia ESG.

The northwest suburbs have seen a $26-million office sale, as Great Lakes REIT bought 1600 Golf Rd. in Rolling Meadows earlier this year. “The smart office buyers are active,” Buenger says. However, there are fewer sales as would-be sellers are holding out for top dollar while institutional buyers seem to have withdrawn from the market, he adds.

Sale prices have ranged as high as $167 per sf for class A property in Lake and DuPage Counties, Buenger says, to $76 per sf for class C product in suburban Cook County. Sales have been at capitalization rates of about 9.4% for class A property, 10.4% for class B, he adds.

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