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ORLANDO-Double-digit vacancies continue to plague the metro area’s nine major submarkets but a strong year-to-date net absorption performance of 441,838 sf could indicate the local office market is headed for better times, according to a new report by the local office of Advantis Real Estate Services Co.

“The storm clouds are slowly beginning to clear but it hasn’t stopped raining yet,” says Lisa DeVore, research director at Advantis. “The office market in Orlando has not changed dramatically since the first of the year, although there are signs that it is beginning to turn the proverbial corner.”

For example, DeVore says, net absorption, “one of the strongest indicators of a market’s overall health, is strong at 441,838 sf, a considerable increase over the 34,240 sf of net absorption reported at this time last year.”

But vacancies, including sublease space, are present in eight of the nine submarkets totaling 360 buildings that Advantis monitors quarterly. Lake Mary/Heathrow’s 3.6-million-sf inventory is at 22.7%; the two million sf at University Research, a much-in-demand area, is 19.8% vacant and Maitland Center is right behind at 19.2% for its 5.7 million sf.

The five-million-sf Southwest submarket is 18.9% vacant. Altamonte Springs/Longwood shows a 17.8% vacancy level for its two million sf. The 578,118 sf at the small Orlando International Airport submarket is 16% unoccupied; and at about the same mark is the Winter Park/Lee Road hub at 16.2% vacancy for its 1.9 million sf. Downtown’s 42 buildings containing 6.1 million sf is 14.7% vacant. Only the 1.3-million-sf East Orlando/436 market at 9.9% escaped the double-digit stigma.

“The University submarket has been plagued by rising vacancies and negative net absorption for the past six months, although that is directly attributable to the delivery of several speculative office buildings,” DeVore says. “But the University area is, nevertheless, a very strong office submarket and is currently recording the highest direct weighted average rental rates in suburban Orlando.”

For instance, University is getting an average asking rent of $19.38 per sf, even as 257,259 sf of new supply enters the market. Net absorption in this submarket is a negative 246,688 sf year-to-date.

Other average asking per-sf rents are $22.26 Downtown; $17.68 in the Airport area; $15.46 in Altamonte Springs/Longwood; $15.81 in East Orlando/436; $18.58 in Lake Mary/Heathrow; $19.10 in Maitland Center; $18.61 in Southwest; and $18.10 in Winter Park/Lee Road.

Other than the University Research submarket and the central business district, there is no new construction. The CBD has 195,440 sf of new space.

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