The vacancy rate for commercial office space in the greater Columbia area fell from 12.8 percent to 12.3 percent in first quarter 2021, on the strength of a positive net absorption of nearly 120,000 square feet of space, according to a market report recently released by Lee & Associates | Maryland.

Approximately 214,000 square feet of space was leased in the first three months of 2021, and prevailing optimism about the future is fueling the nearly 400,000 square feet of commercial space currently under construction in the sub-market. The average asking rent for commercial office product ticked up slightly to $25.50 per square foot, after finishing 2020 at the $25.31 per square foot level.

“The suburbs continue to benefit from companies fleeing major urban areas, as well as those establishing a hub and spoke model that offers increased employee flexibility for workspaces,” said Bill Harrison, senior vice president, Lee & Associates | Maryland. “The vaccine rollout is providing comfort for a portion of employees to return to traditional work environments, although we don’t expect to experience the full impact of this until the end of the year. Columbia remains a viable option for companies based on its equidistance from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., housing options and an incredible amenity base that includes a reimagined town center area. We believe the active leasing trend will accelerate throughout the year.”

The largest commercial office buildings under construction are a 263,000-square-foot building at 11100 Johns Hopkins Road, and a 109,000-square-foot building at 8130 Maple Lawn Boulevard. The largest office lease was the 54,717-square-foot lease signed by Rekor Systems at 6721 Columbia Gateway Drive.

Two significant investment sales were completed in first quarter 2021. Thomas Park Investment acquired 5005 Signal Bell Lane in Clarksville for $8.1 million and Longfield Realty Holdings disposed of 11115-11145 Stratfield Court in Marriottsville for $1.65 million.