- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 9, 2005

Employment opportunities offered by a strong business and government climate should help the D.C. area emerge nearly unscathed if the commercial and residential real estate bubble bursts, some of the region’s real estate leaders said Thursday.

“Anything can happen in the future, but I’m going to bet on steady growth,” Audrey Z. Cramer, vice president of the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, said at a meeting of the D.C. Building Industry Association.

Law firms and the business of government give the area real estate market stability and make it “a magnet for growth,” she said.

Questions about the market have arisen from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s concerns about a real estate “bubble” caused by low interest rates and strong demand to buy residential, office and industrial property.

Interest rates have risen in the past six months to an average of 5.98 percent last week for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, according to McLean home mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Real estate brokers are wondering whether property values are about to fall from their peak in Washington and elsewhere.

“The investment sales market is about as high now as it has ever been in the history of Washington, D.C.,” said John M. Benziger, vice president of Lincoln Property Co.

The local economy is projected to create 7,200 jobs a year through 2030, said W. David Bevirt, vice president of Carr Real Estate Services.

Government and businesses will need 48 million square feet of new office space for their larger work forces, he said.

The biggest growth should occur along the Anacostia Riverfront, in Rockville, Rosslyn, Silver Spring and Prince George’s County, he said.

“The core’s pretty much spoken for,” Mr. Bevirt said. “Now we’re pushing out into other areas.”

In other news

• Investment group First Capital Trust LLC closed its deal Sept. 30 to buy the 16.2-acre site of the old Phillips Estate at 2101 Foxhall Road for more than $21 million.

The sale was unusual because it involved such a large purchase price for a single residential estate.

The investors plan to convert the property to 46 upscale homes. The deal was brokered by Cathie Gill Realtors.

The estate was established by Duncan Phillips, the industrialist and founder of the Phillips Collection of art. A recent owner was Rafik Hariri, a philanthropist and former Lebanese prime minister who was assassinated earlier this year.

• A media industry cluster developing in Silver Spring has gained an addition after satellite broadcaster WorldSpace Inc. moved its headquarters there from the District last week.

The move puts it close to Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute. WorldSpace officials said they expect to reduce expenses with the move.

WorldSpace broadcasts subscriber radio programming to Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

• Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring has completed its four-year, $90 million expansion.

The project added 210,000 square feet and renovated another 155,000, meaning more than half the hospital is now new or renovated.

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

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