LAKEWOOD RANCH — In a market where office space has been particularly slow to lease, Lakewood Ranch is seeing improvement, with two buildings fully leased for the first time since they were built, and nearly 100% occupancy of Lakewood Ranch Main Street’s office spaces.
Brian Kennelly, president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty and chairman of the Real Estate Oversight Committee for the Sarasota Economic Development Corp., said office vacancies in Lakewood Ranch have dipped below 10% for the first time since 2007.
Data released Jan. 4 indicates Lakewood Ranch has the lowest percentage of office space available, compared to downtown Sarasota and Bradenton and in the larger Manatee and Sarasota County areas, for buildings 10,000 square feet or larger.
Figures show the number of vacant office properties in Lakewood Ranch now is 9.2%, down from 10.8% last quarter. Downtown Sarasota has the second-lowest vacancy rate with 13.4% vacancies.
Manatee and Sarasota counties have 20.7% and 26.8% vacancies, respectively, and downtown Bradenton has the highest office vacancy rate, at 36.2%.
Kennelly said Lakewood Ranch has seen “great activity” in its portfolio of office space, with its Lake Osprey Building, better known as the HomeBanc building by the Lakewood Ranch Information Center off University Parkway, now 100% leased. Its Energy Court Building in Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park also is 100% leased for the first time, with the last tenant moving in the space in December.
“It’s encouraging,” Kennelly said. “It’s the first time both of those have been fully occupied.”
Lakewood Ranch Main Street’s office spaces are 100% leased, excluding the unit currently used by LWR Commercial Realty for property management.
“We didn’t allow speculative office development during the boom years,” Kennelly said of why Lakewood Ranch seems to be fairing well. “We sold land to developers who had tenants in place or who needed space, or we sold to (companies that wanted to move here). To a certain degree, we controlled the supply.”
Realtor Brad Lindberg, of Sperry Van Ness Commercial Advisory Group and past president of the Sarasota Association of Realtors’ Commercial Investment Group, agreed Lakewood Ranch’s ability to manage growth has positioned the area well as the demand for office space re-emerges. The area’s location along the I-75 corridor makes it desirable, as well, he said.
Ian Black, managing member of Ian Black Real Estate, agreed, reporting Jan. 7, the company had set a 10-year record in December, closing 20 sale and lease transactions totaling $13 million. Black said the office rental market still is struggling, but is showing signs of improvement. It leased a 22,000-square-foot office space in Palmetto, in December.
“That’s unusual for Palmetto,” he said. “That’s certainly an indication there’s a velocity in the market. There’s increased activity in all sectors of the market. The office market is still struggling a bit. We’ve seen activity, primarily in Lakewood Ranch.”
RE/MAX Alliance Group Commercial Broker Stan Rutstein said the leasing of office space has been one of the weakest categories in the real-estate market until this point.
“I think it is slowly improving,” Rutstein said. “I think we are now, at least, getting inquiries (about it). Things are a lot better than they were in the last three years. There’s a definite positive business pulse out there.”
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