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STAMFORD, CT-The office availability rate Downtown soared more than six percentage points to 12.6% at the end of the second quarter, according to commercial brokerage firm Insignia/ESG. The city saw its available space soar 98% as compared to June 2000 when the rate stood at just 6.5%. Three months ago, the availability rate Downtown stood at 10.4%.

Dean Shapiro, Insignia/ESG’s executive director of its Westchester-Connecticut office, puts a less negative spin on the availability rate numbers for Stamford and Fairfield County. He notes that the statistics, while reflecting an economic slowdown, are somewhat skewed by the record activity that took place here the past two years.

“The progress made during 1999 and 2000 really cannot be compared to any other recent period of time,” Shapiro argues. “To do so paints an unfair portrait of the condition of the county’s real estate market. While what has happened thus far in 2001 is definitely on a lower scale than in other years, it is not that far off the averages.”

He continues, “Numbers aside, Fairfield really needed some relief from the limitations encountered last year. The lack of available space has reached such a crunch level that further business growth may have been inhibited within a short time.”

Countywide, office availability rose almost 52% from June 2000 to 5.5 million sf. Because of a considerable amount of space returned to market in the past three months, the county experienced more than 1.2 million sf of negative absorption that contributed to a more than four percentage point spike of its availability rate to 12.6% as compared to a year ago.

According to officials with Insignia/ESG, much of the new office availabilities came from sublease space as a number of companies shed space in line with job cutting programs. Some of the larger sublease opportunities now on the market include offerings by: Liberty Livewire and Ventiv Healthcare at Harbor Plaza here; Mercator and CSC Group at 10 Westport Road in Wilton; Crompton Corp., at Greenwich American Center in Greenwich; Peppers and Rogers Group at 20 Glover Ave., in Norwalk; and Citigroup at Stamford Towers here.

Insignia/ESG also reports corporate downsizing by Xerox, which is vacating its 255,000 sf corporate headquarters on Long Ridge Road here for parts unknown, Priceline’s return of 121,560 sf in several locations and Microcast’s divestiture of 92,050 sf in Danbury all helped push the county’s office availability rate higher.

Although availability rates are higher, so are asking rents in Fairfield County. Insignia notes that average asking rents in the county shot up 24% from $26.28 per sf in June 2000 to $32.49 per sf. This city’s Downtown asking rental rate skyrocketed from $29.31 a year ago to $36.73 per sf at the end of June of this year. In the western part of the county, the average asking rent now stands at $36.41 per sf, up from $32.10 a year ago.

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