- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

A Bethesda commercial real estate research firm has made its first foray into the retail world with a search engine that lists all retail property on the market.

CoStar Group Inc.’s Property Professional Retail Dimension lists all retail property for sale, as well as nearby competitors and area demographics. If a fast-food chain wanted to open a store near 10th and K streets Northwest, for example, the program would tell it what other fast-food chains are nearby and what types of people live in the area.

CoStar says it is the first company to sell an updated, national database of all commercial property in the United States.

It compiles the information with crews in 48 vans that drive across the country, block by block, surveying properties, taking 360-degree photos of sites and updating the database when properties hit the market. CoStar also uses aerial photos to count parking spaces at each retail location.

The information, in addition to traffic counts and demographics from Claritas, a San Diego demographics company, provides what CoStar calls a thorough look at each property.

“We’re digitizing every piece of retail real estate in the United States of America to dramatically change the efficiency of opening new stores and acquiring real estate in the retail sector,” said Andrew Florance, CoStar chief executive officer.

Mr. Florance says the database of 1.9 million properties will help retailers grow more quickly by opening stores more efficiently and saving research time for brokerage firms.

“It will change the process in which retailers open stores,” Mr. Florance said during an interview at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual conference in Las Vegas last month, where the product was introduced. “It [used to be] really inefficient.”

Brokerage firms, retailers and developers typically conduct their own research and combine it with industry products, such as Claritas’ traffic counts, when choosing locations. CoStar is designed to eliminate that in-house work.

The search engine also could be used by banks and money lenders to find how much property costs in a geographic area to decide whether a property deal is priced correctly and whether the loan should be approved, Mr. Florance said.

CoStar, which counts about 10,000 firms as customers and has nearly $150 million in annual revenue, has been selling a database of other types of commercial property — industrial and office — since 1987. The company says it played a role in 70 percent of commercial leasing and sales transactions last year.

The price of the program depends on the size of the broker or the number of states in which a retailer conducts business.

‘Breezy’ Baltimore

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association began a tourism advertising campaign, “Get in on it,” designed to play on the “vibrancy” of a big city without the congestion and stress of traveling in one.

Research for the campaign, a $500,000 initiative that includes television and radio ads scheduled to appear in Washington, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey, found that out-of-towners identify Baltimore with a “breezy, open harbor” feeling, spontaneity and easy access to attractions.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or [email protected]

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