Demand for industrial, commercial properties remains high in 2015

A joint venture bankrolled this 100,000-square-foot office building at Nexton in Summerville. MWV is a developer and tenant. Leroy Burnell/Staff 1/26/2015

The familiar names keep popping up: Gander Mountain retail space, MWV (MeadWestvaco) new office space, Fruit of the Loom industrial expansion.

They undoubtedly all had economic reasons to choose the Charleston area to do business, whether it was years ago or just recently. But there’s more to it than that, according to brokers who specialize in commercial or industrial properties.

“Overall, Charleston is a place where people want to work,” says Charles Carmody, senior vice president and broker-in-charge of CBRE’s local office.

Whether or not the Lowcountry’s lifestyle has anything to do with it, the Charleston area’s retail, office and industrial real estate markets are all on the upswing heading into early 2015.

“My specialty is office space, and rental rates are coming up while vacancy rates are going down,” Carmody says.

The broker suggests another reason for the market strength: supply and demand. “We’ve had very little new construction of office buildings. Rates can go up. Supply needs to grow,” he says.

According to figures from Avison Young in Charleston, retail, office and industrial real estate properties are increasing, on average, in price per square foot and in most cases declining in terms of vacancy rates.

Depending on the part of town, industrial space shows a 3.9-16 percent vacancy rate and $3.51-$6.31 per square foot asking rent. Office properties list a 5.4-15.9 percent vacancy rate and $17.57-$31.63 square feet for top-end “class A” office space. Retail sites have a 2.2 percent-8.2 percent vacancy and $11.72-$27.83 square foot asking rent.

In terms of geographical areas, West Ashley showcases the highest asking rents for office space, downtown Charleston tends to post the highest asking rent for industrial sites and North Charleston counts the most properties. North Charleston also posts the highest volume of retail space, and downtown Charleston touts the highest retail leasing rates.

“We’ve still got space available in and around Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant,” Carmody said.

A few modern office buildings are in the works, Carmody says, but “it’s mostly infill stuff.”

Exceptions include:

- The Nexton property at Interstate 26 and North Main Street in Summerville, anchored by MWV and The Rockefeller Group’s multistory glass office building visible from the I-26 off ramp.

- Holder Properties unveiling of an 80,000-square-foot office center on Daniel Island.

- Gateway Mount Pleasant, a three story, 60,000- square-foot class A office building at the base of the Ravenel Bridge. Landmark Enterprises is pre-leasing the building.

“There’s several law firms out there, looking to expand or come to the market,” Carmody said.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.