Transwestern, Delta Associates and Sage Policy Group Host 23rd Annual TrendLines®
February 10, 2020
Washington – Commercial real estate in the Washington metro recorded notable expansion in 2019 due to above-average job growth, robust absorption and lowered vacancy rates. This year is anticipated to be another healthy year, though an increasing federal deficit and 2026 Medicare trust fund insolvency poses a challenge for Amazon HQ2 and its support to the region. This was one of several MegaTrends highlighted at Transwestern Commercial Services’ 23rd annual Washington, D.C., TrendLines® event, which provides the region’s leading economic and commercial real estate analysis.
The event, held Feb. 6 at Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, was produced as a collaboration between Transwestern, its research affiliate Delta Associates, and Sage Policy Group, with support from sponsors PNC Real Estate, Baker Tilly and DFS Construction. Speakers included Sage Policy Group CEO Anirban Basu, TCS Director of Research Elizabeth Norton, and Delta Associates President William Rich. The event also honored Sheila C. Johnson of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and Richard S. Lake of Roadside Development as TrendSetters of the Year.
“The Washington metropolitan economy continues to perform brilliantly, with unemployment remaining low and job creation robust,” said Basu. “That performance will be supportive of solid commercial real estate performance in 2020.”
Other MegaTrends highlighted at the event include:
AMAZON’S CONTRIBUTION TO ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION
Amazon’s arrival via HQ2 will aid in economic diversification but could be affected by residual tremors from the $23 trillion national debt recorded at year-end. Though insolvency is set for Medicare and Social Security, it is plausible that there will be a debt-driven fiscal crisis in Washington.
OFFICE OBSOLENCE AND DENSIFICATION
Employers are challenged with hiring quality talent amidst persistently low unemployment. Employees shifting to place greater weight on office environment only propels the drive for tenants to occupy quality space as a marketing tool for talent. Densification will continue at a decelerated rate as tenants right-size space to offset increased cost.
“While we expect steady office demand, the market will be challenged with office space becoming obsolete at a faster pace and densification, which will keep the vacancy rate elevated,” said Norton.
HOW MUCH RUNWAY IS LEFT FOR INDUSTRIAL?
The historically low vacancy rate coupled with limited new construction within the Washington metro could restrict absorption during 2020. Rents will continue to steadily rise as a shift will be required to meet the growing demand of e-commerce and rapid delivery times.
ARE OPPORTUNITY ZONES WORTH THE INVESTMENT?
Apartment development activity in the Washington metro’s 90-plus Opportunity Zones has increased over the past three years while condo development in Opportunity Zones has been minimal. The coming decade looks to increase multifamily development in Opportunity Zones even as tax benefits decrease.
TRANSIT-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES ALONG SILVER AND PURPLE LINES
The arrival of the Purple and Silver metro lines present opportunities to commercial real estate investors and other stakeholders moving forward. The lines bring significant value to the surrounding land and encourage up-zoning, improving the quality of life for existing residents and businesses.
“Major transit infrastructure projects are underway in the Washington suburbs and have the potential to reshape entire communities,” said Rich. “The second phase of the Silver Line isn’t even complete yet, but more than 2,600 multifamily units have been built in the last year, or are under construction within a half mile of a station, with an additional 10,300 units planned.”
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