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ORLANDO-CB Richard Ellis Inc. industrial specialist David Murphy says Central Florida’s sagging industrial market is rallying. Murphy says he is no swami but bases his optimism for the third and fourth quarters on three deals he closed in the past two weeks totaling 108,500 sf.

Murphy did five-year transactions with California-based Cal-East (62,000 sf), CalPERS of Sacramento, CA (26,500 sf) and Adler Group of Miami (20,000 sf).

“Many of the leases we have recently completed or are still being negotiated involve companies which had held off their decisions for several months to assess national economic conditions,” the broker says. “Many of these companies simply could not continue to wait (any longer) so they appraised the strength of the Central Florida economy and decided to move forward.”

Low interest rates and the financial strength of local and regional tenants are “contributing to an increase in tenants considering purchase options,” Murphy says. That element, too, is buoying activity in the third quarter.

Murphy is aware that over one million sf of industrial sublease space has hit the Central Florida market over the past six months. And that the 94.6 million-sf industrial inventory has a second-quarter vacancy level of 10.2%, the highest since second quarter 1998.

Still, he says, “The transaction velocity for industrial leases and dispositions in Central Florida has increased dramatically over the past six weeks, fueled by increasing confidence of decision-makers in our local economy, as well as a pent-up demand from companies that have been holding up on leasing space over the previous two quarters.”

He concedes the one million sf of for-rent sublease space is having “a marked effect on owners who are leasing second-generation product in older facilities.” But he says “much of this sublease space is in older, more functionally obsolescent space.”

Tenants that need clear ceiling heights of 28 feet or more and modern fire and security protection are heading for the newer parks being developed by “forward-thinking owners such as Cal-East, Duke-Weeks Realty and Robert Pattillo Properties.”

Those are among the parks cornering a new wave of tenants, Murphy says. Older bulk distribution sublease product is being marketed in the $3.40 per sf to $3.80 per sf range on an annual net-to-owner basis. Rental rates for new bulk space range from $3.75 per sf to $4 per sf.

Some submarkets haven’t felt the downturn at all, the broker says. For instance, the 13 million-sf northwest Orlando submarket and the 5.82 million sf 33rd Street submarket in southwest Orlando continue to lead the pack in leasing and new development.

“These submarkets cater to local or regional tenants who cluster to these industrial areas,” regardless of the economy, Murphy explains. Vacancies hover at 5%, “lower than the marketwide average of 8.65%,” he says.

Helping the industrial market recover is a limited new product supply under construction and “a resilience in industrial lease rates,” Murphy believes.

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