The New Orleans area’s office market improved last year, with rents climbing higher and occupancy rates holding steady overall in 2013 compared with 2012, according to an annual office market report released Monday by Corporate Realty Inc.
The occupancy rate for non-medical office buildings with at least 20,000 square feet in the metropolitan area was 85.5 percent in both 2012 and 2013, the commercial real estate firm’s report found. Meanwhile, the average rental rate climbed to $18.73 per square foot, up from $17.74 in 2012.
The results reflect rental and occupancy rates for office buildings both in and out of the Central Business District in Orleans Parish, as well as in Metairie, in Elmwood, in St. Charles Parish and on the north shore in 2012 and 2013.
Occupancy has risen in the CBD and elsewhere in Orleans Parish as office buildings are converted to other uses at a rapid clip, Corporate Realty President Michael Siegel said. Meanwhile, office-space occupancy and rental rates are at an all-time high in Metairie and some other suburban areas.
The occupancy rate for top-tier, or Class A, office space in the CBD was more than 89 percent in 2013, up from 87 percent in 2012. Rents rose slightly, from $18.13 to $18.86 per square foot. The market is benefiting on the supply side from the conversion of office buildings into apartments and hotels and, to a lesser degree, on the demand side from the city’s growing technology industry, according to the report.
“The CBD market has historically been one of much more supply than there has been demand,” Siegel said. “Honestly, we’re still digging out of a hole. I wouldn’t say there’s off-the-charts demand, but there is demand, whereas in the past it’s been flat to negative.”
Non-Class A buildings aren’t faring as well. About a third of the space in those less pricey buildings in the CBD is vacant, according to the report. Rental rates from such space dropped in 2013 from $16.02 to $15.75.
“A market is not sustainable at under 70 percent leased, and some of the properties will find the highest and best use as apartments, condos or hotels rather than continuing to operate as office buildings,” the Corporate Realty report said. Tenants displaced “by such adaptive reuse will likely relocate within downtown into Class A or other non-Class A buildings, further strengthening the Class A market and rightsizing the non-Class A market.”
The lowest vacancy and highest rental rates were in East Metairie, where Class A office buildings such as Heritage Plaza and Lakeway Center were about 95 percent full and rented for $23.50 per square foot on average.
The most expensive Class A office space is on the north shore, where the average rate was $25 per square foot in 2013.
“The suburban market has been strong for quite a few years,” Siegel said. “What this reinforces is the strength of the suburban market. The suburban market is so diversified, I see nothing that’s going to slow down that diversity.”