Fairfax County reports drop in large blocks of vacant office space

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

Maybe it’s those new corporate headquarters. By year end 2009, the county had 62 buildings with space in excess of 50,000 square feet, for a total of 6.7 million square feet of available space. In 2008, the county reported 64 buildings with large blocks of space, or a total of 7.3 million square feet of space. 

The large blocks represented more than 36 percent of the county’s total available office space, which stood at 18.5 million square feet by the end of 2009. That figure was second only to a record total reported at yearend 2002 at the height of the IT-telecom bust.

There were glimmers of light in the county’s most recent real estate report published by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. While gross leasing activity was down 10 percent for the last half of the year, overall leasing for the year topped 10.3 million square feet — the strongest demand for space in three years. 

Some other statistics: The direct office vacancy rate hit 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest point in more than 16 years. Throw in sublet space, and the vacancy rate bumped up to 16.4 percent. The majority of the vacant space can be found in four submarkets: Tysons Corner, Reston, Chantilly and Dulles.

Many of the large blocks fall into the 50,000-99,999-square-foot range. There are 19 blocks with 100,000 to 199,000 square feet. Tenants needing space of 200,000-plus square feet or more are limited to six buildings in the county.

The availably of Class A office space has helped Fairfax attract major corporate headquarters. Since 2007, the county has snagged several major relocations including Volkswagen of America, Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), Hilton Worldwide and Science Applications International (SAIC).

Currently, defense giant Northrop Grumman is considering two sites in Northern Virginia, including one building in the county’s Fairview Park office complex and another in Arlington. The company expected to make a decision by late last month, but a spokesman said Northrop Grumman still is working out details on which site would be best.


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