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WHITE PLAINS, NY-Speaking before the Westchester County Board of Realtors Commercial Investment Division, commercial real estate investor and developer Robert Weisz said he expects the commercial office market in Westchester County to steadily improve over the next four years.

Weisz, president and CEO of the RPW Group of White Plains, disagrees with some analysts who say that the current commercial real estate investment market in Westchester has never been better. Weisz, whose firm owns more than 1.25 million sf of office space in Westchester and Fairfield counties, noted that stabilized class A office buildings in the New York suburbs are selling on average in the $150-per-sf range. He said that earlier this year, his firm paid $160 per sf to buy 2975 Westchester Ave. from Ivy Equities.

However, he said the high water mark for commercial office investment in Westchester County occurred in 1986 when MetLife paid approximately $170 per sf for the White Plains Plaza office complex. Prior to its being pulled from the market earlier this year, Weisz revealed his firm bid $75 per sf to acquire the White Plains Plaza property.

Weisz said that Westchester County has outperformed many of its neighboring markets in the past few years. He noted that low interest rates and the turbulent economy have fueled investment sales here and across the nation. His firm alone in the past two years has spent $60 million in new investment deals in Westchester County.

“When a property goes on the market it is not unusual to have 50 to 60 or 70 buyers,” he said. In assessing the state of the office markets in the region, Weisz said, “We (Westchester) are frankly the strongest market in the area. New York City has its troubles, and Fairfield (County) is terrible.”

He noted that the city of Stamford’s office market is experiencing a glut of available space, due mainly to the traffic congestion woes on its major highway arterials, I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. He added that the Westchester County commercial leasing market is improving, in spite of the current national economic recovery that he said is anything but robust.

“I would say it is not only a jobless recovery, but a spaceless recovery,” he said. Weisz noted that the leasing market has suffered in part because technology has allowed businesses to operate efficiently in less space.

He noted that at present, the sublease market in Westchester County is “drying up” and that he expects leasing demand will increase as company expectations grow in the coming years.

In the next four years, Weisz predicted that interest rates will rise approximately two percent from current levels and that the strong investment sales market will cool somewhat as the economy improves and some investors return to the stock market.

Locally, he forecasted that vacancy rates will fall, average office rental rates in Westchester County, which are currently at approximately $25 per sf, will rise to $30 per sf in the next four years and that class A office space will approach $200 per sf by the year 2007.

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