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STAMFORD, CT-In the past three months, a continued influx of sublease space put on the market throughout Fairfield County has caused the region’s office availability rate to rise once again.

According to brokerage firm Insignia/ESG, the office availability rate in Fairfield now stands at 18.25%. At the end of the second quarter, the rate stood at 16.55%. A year ago, the percentage of available space in the county was just 12.72%.

The amount of sublease space on the market now stands at 2.5 million sf, up 66% from last year when 1.5 million sf of sublease space was available, according to Steven Greenbush, managing director with Insignia/ESG. Some of the large blocks of space put on the sublease market include 40,000 sf in Stamford by Philip Morris and 17,500 sf by Dannone Water in Wilton.

The city of Stamford’s office market currently has 43%, or 1.1 million sf, of the county’s available sublease office space.

In the third quarter of this year, despite some notable property sales, the region has been bereft of major leasing transactions. Some of the larger reported leases were UDV’s 47,000 sf expansion transaction at 9 West Broad St. in Stamford; GE’s 29,000 sf lease at 3 Corporate Drive in Shelton and JPMorgan Chase’s 21,000 sf lease at 2 Enterprise Drive in Shelton.

Insignia/ESG’s Greenbush said that the economic downturn has hit Fairfield County businesses hard and at the moment, the region is not seeing much business growth.

“Stamford has been extremely slow and you keep hearing about more space coming on the market (for sublease),” he says. “Landlords are trying to be more aggressive to fight off the sublease market.”

The average asking rent in most regions of Fairfield County fell in the third quarter. Countywide, the average asking rent is $28.34 per sf down from $29.22 per sf three months ago and $30.77 per sf a year ago. In downtown Stamford, the average asking rent at the end of the third quarter of 2002 stood at $31.76 per sf, down slightly from $31.98 per sf at the end of the second quarter. A year ago, the rate stood at $32.36 per sf.

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