Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Has Oklahoma City Real Estate Market Turned Aroung?/analysts Point to Stabilization in Area, with Current Projects Leading to Economic Recovery

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Has Oklahoma City Real Estate Market Turned Aroung?/analysts Point to Stabilization in Area, with Current Projects Leading to Economic Recovery

Article excerpt

The question just about everyone wants to have answered right now is: "Has Oklahoma City's real estate market turned around yet, and if not, when?"

While just about everyone seems to feel the tick which will start everything in motion is just around the corner, no one will say the market has improved. Rather, they say it has stabilized.

Recent announcements, reports, surveys and general interviews seem to indicate consumer confidence is moving upward, which should herald a new era in economic recovery, which will be a boon to the real estate industry.

This feeling is borne out by Oklahoma State University's College of Business Administration, which recently said confidence in the state's economy is improving.

In March, both Neil Dikeman, director of the University of Oklahoma Economic and Management Research Center, and Craig Knutson, economist for Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. in Oklahoma City, said the economy is improving, although slightly.

A survey by Allied Van Lines of Broadview, Ill. showed that Oklahoma's population decline is easing somewhat, which could be factor in the recovery.

With economic recovery on the upswing, the real estate market should follow suit.

Kerry Norman, sales associate of the Zedlitz Agency Inc., 6212 N. Western Ave., said the residential market is stablizing and should rebound next year. But she would not predict the level of that recovery.

"I just hope it never reaches levels of 1983 and 1984 again," she said.

Reports since January seem to bear out the feeling that economic rebound is only a step away, even as residential, office and industrial vacancies abound and the unemployed ranks continue to grow.

Some of the bigger announcements are:

- Remington Park racetrack, now under construction, has spurred the announcement of several potential projects in its immediate area, although nothing is yet underway.

- Crinco Investments Inc. of El Paso announced in March that it will construct an $8 million truck stop/restaurant complex near the intersection of M. L. King Ave. and E. Reno Ave.

- Avia Tech Inc. has relocated to Edmond and the Hitachi plant in Norman soon will be operating.

- It's estimated that 1,400 military and civilian jobs are to be created near Tinker Air Force Base when the U. S. Navy brings in a squadron of communications airplanes next year.

- The Penn Square Mall renovation, Dow Jones plant and Hitach plant are all well under way.

- The state's major utilities are leading efforts to bring new industry to the Oklahoma.

While three major city real estate firms recently reported the city's office vacancy rate is climbing, which should signal a softening market, most real estate people feel just the opposite.

This improving market seems to be indicated by recent office lease activity in which tenants signed longer leases, some even for more space.

In 1986, most tenants signed one-year leases, taking advantage of the sagging market to upgrade their facilities and maybe even negotiate lower rents. Now, tenants have realized they've got the best deal possible, so they are signing for longer leases, with options to expand, if current rates can be continued.

Amy Stewart, associate of Butcher & Graves Commercial Real Estate, 101 Park Ave., said tenants will not get any better deals because of the soft market. In some areas, she said, rents already have increased by as much as $1 per square foot.

"Last year," said Craig Tucker, associate of the Sweetser Companies, 420 W. Main St., "there was a lot of activity, but it was for one-year leases, tenants had no confidence in the business climate in Oklahoma City. Now, that has changed."

While office vacancies are increasing, Coldwell Banker says industrial vacancies are decreasing, however slightly, and Butcher & Graves reports an almost impreceptible increase in the service center/service warehouse occupancy rate. …

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