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PHILADELPHIA-It’s difficult to get too upbeat during these economic times. But about 450 attendees at RealShare Philadelphia in the Downtown Marriott hotel yesterday heard a story during morning sessions that wasn’t as bleak as what is often heard nowadays.

Things aren’t perfect in Philadelphia, but they could certainly be worse, like they are in other major markets across the country.

The office vacancy rate in the Metro area is at 14% right now, while other cities are seeing rates hitting the high teens, said Robert Walters, a senior managing director at CB Richard Ellis. In the CBD, it is between 9% and 10%.

“We’re faring much better,” he said. “Sure, we’re in a recession. But it’s milder.”

On the city government front, there is a push for development, said Andrew Altman, the city’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development and director of commerce. Projects of priority are the expansion of the airport, development along the Delaware and Schuykill rivers and the renovation of the navy yard.

If the city is able to secure federal relief dollars, Altman said, it will make it easier for it to offer developer incentives. “We need to bring down the barriers to investment,” he said. “We understand that the costs in Philadelphia are higher than other cities, and we have to tackle those costs.”

Assets in the multifamily sector are actually a bright spot now, pointed out Art Pasquarella, executive vice president and chief operating officer of locally based BPG Properties. He also said that though there aren’t many transactions taking place in this environment, he would consider buying multifamily assets in the Philadelphia area because of the strength of the property type and the market.

“We are in the throes of a messed-up market,” Pasquarella said. “Things are not going to stay this way for too long.”

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