- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Arlington’s BRAC Transition Task Force began preparing a strategy Tuesday for replacing the 4 million square feet of office tenancies the city is losing as a result of the federal government’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission’s decisions.

About 17,000 jobs are scheduled to be relocated under BRAC from Arlington to military bases or other offices, many outside the D.C. area, beginning in 2007.

Arlington officials say they know they face a daunting task but want to avoid jamming the first tenants that become available into the commercial spaces the military is vacating.

“It’s more than just who’s going to be occupying what real estate at what time,” said Richard Litman, chairman of the Arlington Economic Development Commission. “Beyond just whose going to be occupying space, you have the issue of work force.”

The commission in its first meeting appointed what Mr. Litman calls an “A-team” of government and private-sector advisers to determine the best strategy for Arlington to recover the tenants and jobs it will lose under BRAC.

The BRAC Transition Task Force includes Marty Almquist, leasing director for Equity Office Properties, a commercial real estate firm; Jeff Finkle, chief executive officer of the International Economic Development Council, an association of local economic-development organizations; Loretta Franklin, president of DeVry University at Crystal City, a major employer; and Jerry Norris, president of Battlespace, a high-tech military contractor in Arlington.

Mr. Finkle said the loss of government tenants in Arlington would affect the commercial real-estate market throughout the region for years.

“There will be so much space becoming available in Arlington, I don’t see a lot of new buildings being built in the region,” he said. “Rental rates will probably drop in the region.”

New development in the D.C. area, which has been among the nation’s fastest for the past five years, is likely to slow, Mr. Finkle said.

“If you have that much empty space, why would you want to jump into the market with a new building in Reston or Bethesda or D.C.?” he said. [Property owners] “can effectively drop the lease rates on those buildings until they get them filled up again.”

Factors the BRAC Transition Task Force will consider in determining an economic-development strategy include the office-absorption rate in the region and the plans that property owners have for their buildings, Mr. Finkle said.

Arlington officials also hired outside experts for the task force, including Erik Pages, president of EntreWorks Consulting, an Arlington economic-development consulting firm.

Although economic losses are likely from BRAC initially, the reorganization of office tenancies could benefit the community, said Mr. Pages, who has consulted on economic consequences of military-base closings in other states.

“The record shows very clearly that communities generally recover and often they can be better off in the long term,” Mr. Pages said. “It generates a more diversified economy.”

“We have to look at this as a long-term challenge,” Mr. Pages said. “We’re not going to be able to fill those buildings immediately.”

• Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail [email protected]

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