MIAMI-Both the overall vacancy rate and leasing activity in the Miami-Dade County office market increased in 2002, according to a newly released Cushman & Wakefield year-end office space report.

The vacancy rate rose 2% to 18% in the county. This was largely affected by a growth in construction completions and sublease space availabilities, which is currently 752,040 sf and which affected every major submarket this year. Sublease space affected the Brickell Avenue submarket most, where space increased 18%, compared with 2001.

During the year, more than 896,000 sf of construction was completed. Most of that was speculative, and approximately 57% of it has been leased. About half of the new space completed was in the Coral Gables submarket.

One submarket that saw a vacancy rate hike was Brickell Avenue, whose vacancy rate rose from 12.3% at the end of 2001 to 16.8% currently. That number is expected to climb further when two buildings totaling 480,000 sf are completed in 2003. This year, the overall vacancy rate also increased in the central business district from 14.4% to 16%.

One market that experienced a dip in vacancy rates was downtown, where numbers reached 6.9%. More space could free up, however, when larger tenants, such as law firms, look for space in other areas of the county, as their leases soon come up for renewal.

While vacancy rates looked grim overall for the year, leasing activity continued to be fairly strong in the fourth quarter and in the year overall. Leasing activity in 2002 totaled 3.4 million sf, an increase–although slight–compared with a year earlier. Most of these leasing deals happened in the third and fourth quarters, and the top 20 leases in 2002 were relocations from within the market or expansions.

The Cushman & Wakefield year-end report also noted: -The most active submarket this year was Coral Gables, which saw 93,997 sf of positive net absorption.-While it still has more than 2 million sf of available space, the Airport/West Dade submarket did experience a slight decrease in vacancy rates in 2002 and sublease space availability also dropped. -The investment market remained strong at year-end, as investors purchased office properties during a stock market downturn. During the year, seven top Miami-Dade office buildings with 3.6 million sf sold for a total of $898 million.

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