ORLANDO-The area’s 13.5-million-sf bulk warehouse market appears to be rallying, ringing up its strongest performance since fourth quarter 1997, reports Rebman Properties Inc., an industrial brokerage that has been tracking the market since 1991.

First-quarter vacancies among the 114 monitored properties dropped 3.57% to 12.22% and net absorption rose to 484,168 sf, up from 176,000 sf in first quarter 2003.

“The strong first quarter follows a year in which net absorption was a negative 85,035 sf (at year end 2003) and confirms many brokers’ opinions that the market is now beginning to turn around,” says Greg Rebman, a senior vice president at Rebman Properties. Last year’s negative net absorption performance was the first since Rebman began monitoring the industry 13 years ago.

“Although the leasing market would still not be characterized as active, several large leases filled vacancies in some of the larger spaces, which have been keeping the vacancy rate high,” he adds. The current 12.22% vacancy level compares with 15.8% in fourth quarter 2003; 15.17% in 2002; 14.12% in 2001 and 14.5% in 2000.

Among the large leases in the first quarter were Behr Paints, 160,151 sf at 7000 Kingspointe Parkway in Crownpointe Commerce Park; Tire Kingdom, moving from 110,000 sf at 1350 Tradeport Dr. to 204,000 sf at 1001 Tradeport Dr. in AIPO business park; Bodek and Rhodes, 140,000 sf at ParkSouth B in Orlando Central Park South; and Amcor, 74,436 sf at ParkSouth D, also in Orlando Central Park South.

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