Monday, July 8, 2019

Philadelphia's Center City Office Rent Growth Outperforms Most East Coast Central Business Districts

by Adrian Ponsen
The Central Business Districts of global gateway markets such as New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston, have long been perceived as the powerhouses for office rent growth in the Northeastern U.S. But that dynamic appears to be changing.

Since 2016, rents in the CBDs of the most-expensive East Coast markets have been flat-lining. With average office rents now between $55 to $75 per square foot, affordability constraints are coming into play for CBD tenants in New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Meanwhile, these three locations have seen a combined 48 million square feet of new office projects either complete, or break ground in the past five years. For owners of existing office properties, this rapid expansion in high-end office inventory means more properties to compete with and less bargaining power during lease negotiations.

The situation is very different in Center City Philadelphia, where the list of technology and finance tenants looking to expand may be limited, but sky-high construction costs are keeping new office development to a minimum. Averaging $33 per square foot, Center City’s rents are vastly more affordable than those in other nearby East Coast CBDs, and rent growth, which made a strong showing from 2013 to 2015, has only accelerated in recent years.

Investors who have piled into Midtown Manhattan and District of Columbia properties at 3% to 4% capitalization rates in recent years may not like it, but this divergence may well continue over the long-term, given the prohibitively high cost of doing business in the Northeast’s global gateway markets.

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