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CHICAGO-Even with vacancy rates as low as 6% in more desirable locations, the local industrial market is described as “feeble,” with rent concessions creeping into lease negotiations. That is the report of Grubb & Ellis senior vice president Patrick J. Sullivan to a recent meeting of the Real Estate Investors Association.

“It’s really a feeble market at this point across the board, with a lot of people sitting on their hands,” Sullivan says. “Corporate America is nervous at this point. . . . Leasing is on-again, off-again all year. There’s a lot of tire kickers out there.”

Still, there are exceptions, Sullivan adds. “If it’s class A, the institutional buyers are out there in droves,” he says. “It’s very, very competitive.”

That’s because “most of the low-lying fruit has been picked,” Sullivan notes. The more desirable industrial product is either not for sale or being pulled off the market by sellers whose lofty demands are not being met. “Outside Chicago, the spread between buy and ask is so high that’s nothing’s happening,” Sullivan says. He predicts more owners may opt to refinance properties to raise cash rather than sell.

One type of deal that is happening, according to Sullivan, is the sale-leaseback as corporate decision-makers seek less of a financial commitment to space. Also, he has been finding the build-to-suit market fairly active as demand is shifting to fewer, larger facilities. And the suburbs are continuing to draw users away from the city, he adds.

“It’s getting to the point now where someone near the stockyards or on Crawford Avenue can get the identical space for the same amount of rent along I-55, but with all the bells and whistles,” Sullivan says.

Sullivan also predicts vacancies will continue creeping up in most submarkets while overall capitalization rates paid for newer properties will remain in the low- to mid-8% range. For older, and perhaps obsolete properties, Sullivan foresees cap rates above 10%.

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