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PHILADELPHIA-The office vacancy rate in Downtown Columbus, OH rose 1.6 percentage points between the second and third quarter, reaching 23.6%, according to research by the Columbus office of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis. Among thecontributing factors were the bankruptcy of a 90,000-sf tenant, downsizing byBorden, Inc., and the departure of Andersen’s office.

Despite the rise, asking average lease rates increased slightly in the most recent quarter, although they are still below last year’s third-quarter rates. The average among all office classifications is now $17.79 per sf.

The average gross asking rate at class-A office properties is $20.23 per sf, up from $19.91 per sf in second quarter and down 44 cents per sf from third-quarter 2001. Class-B asking rates, where the overall vacancy rate is 25.6%, have taken the biggest hit. Although the published average gross asking rate is now $15.34 per sf, up from $14.28 per sf last quarter, it is down $1.02 per sf from third-quarter last year.

The report distinguishes between “published” and “effective” rates. Owners “are reluctant to drop published rates too low, and asking rates have started to level off,” the report says. Effective rates, “where the deals are actually being done,” it states, “will continue to decrease below current levels” until normalcy returns to the market.

Meanwhile, free rent, shorter lease terms, increased tenant improvements, parking concessions and moving allowances are widely used lures.

No new office properties came to market in the third quarter. Currently, 203,000 sf is under construction in the Downtown market, and, according to the report, collectively, the space under construction has a 55.7% pre-committed rate.

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