Commercial construction pulled back sharply in 2015

WASHINGTON — Commercial real estate building fell 31 percent last year in the D. C. region — led by a steep decline in new office construction.

New apartment and condo construction is robust in the Washington region, particularly in the District. But with office vacancy rates in the greater region at the highest rates in 20 years, there’s not much incentive to build more office space. And that’s reflected in the drop in total commercial real estate construction — that’s everything except residential building — in the region in 2015, according to a new Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments report.

The decline was more than 3 million square feet of new commercial space, making 2015 one of the lowest years of production for the region in 35 years.

The only category to see an increase in commercial construction last year was industrial properties, including data centers and warehouses.

The Council of Governments reports that since 2009, the overall regional commercial real estate vacancy rate has hovered above the national average, at around 11 percent. But the vacancy rate for office buildings in the region climbed to its highest level in more than 20 years last year, to 14.9 percent.

“The decline in commercial construction mirrors a period of declining federal procurement and stagnant job growth in metropolitan Washington,” COG said in its “State of the Region: Economic Competitiveness Report” released earlier this year.

Federal procurement spending has declined by $11.2 billion since 2010.

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Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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