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AUSTIN-Despite the weak Austin office market, it’s full steam ahead on a northwest Austin office building.

“Piers have been poured, the lower retention pond has been concreted in and they should be pouring the bottom parking lot slab this weekend,” says Al Lehtonen Jr., a College Station lawyer, who’s developing the project with his father. “That’s the general progression and it should be completed sometime by March 1, 2003.”

Lehtonen tells GlobeSt.com that no leases have been signed for the 45,000-sf building on Shepherd Mountain. “We haven’t tried,” he says. “We’re going to start that in the next few weeks, going out and actively searching for tenants.”

He plans to pitch the building to professional firms seeking 2,500 sf to 5,000 sf. “Multiple tenants diversify your portfolio up there,” Lehtonen says, adding that he doesn’t plan to hire a broker to market the space.

Lease rates for the building could be around $25 per sf to $27 per sf, he says. That will include utilities, taxes, insurance, some janitorial and upkeep for the grounds.

Lehtonen says he and his father have a lot of equity in the project “so that’s going to help us in our overall expense, especially interest costs.” As a result, they can sport a better cost structure than another building with 85% of the building cost provided by a lender.

The northwest submarket has about 664,830 sf of vacant space, according to Colliers International’s second quarter report. That’s a 17.5% vacancy rate for all classes of space in the submarket. Class A space is standing 29.7% vacant, with rents ranging from $14 per sf to $29 per sf and the average at $23.08 per sf.

L.M. Holder III of Austin is the building’s architect. Dallas-based Constructors is the project’s general contractor.

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