Shifts in Health Care Industry Keep Brokers Busy

Article excerpt

Health care will be the real estate industry's most promising partner this year nationwide, according to the Ernst & Young Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group. But area brokers say law firms and technology are still in the driver's seat in the Baltimore-Washington region.

Why is health care hot nationally?

Health care's "work space and work force will continue to consolidate during the next year," according to Leventhal's January report. "The effects of these mergers and acquisitions on local communities are just as much a real estate story as any transaction or new development."

Owen Rouse, director of investment services for the Manekin Corp. in Baltimore, said there might be opportunities in health care locally - if you look behind the curtains.

"Manekin has been increasing its dealings with the health industry," Mr. Rouse said.

"I do think real estate companies that focus strictly on health care are going to find more and more business," Mr. Rouse said. "We're doing quite a bit of work with the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins University."

Manekin is developing Belward Park, a 130-acre farm at Key West Avenue and Great Seneca Highway off Interstate 270 in Montgomery County, into a medical research park for Johns Hopkins.

Medical businesses, like others, also are discovering the benefits of selling real estate as a means of expanding, Mr. Rouse said.

"There's been a changeover in the feeling that having to own your building . . . was a sign of strength," he said. "Now companies - medical and others - are realizing they're not in the real estate business. They have extraordinary amounts of capital tied up in bricks and sticks and are further realizing that to be increasingly competitive, they need to free up their capital to grow their businesses. I see that as one portion of growth, whether you're making widgets or testing blood."

Mr. Rouse also pointed out that the changing medical business is creating several opportunities for developers - if they're prepared.

"Five years ago, we didn't know there would be surgicenters or outpatient centers in shopping centers," he said. "How do we know what's ahead? Who knew five years ago that university research would be back?"

Tony Gould, managing principal of District-based Larson Ball & Gould Real Estate Commercial Services, still sees law firms as the engine driving the D. …