Connecticut Public Radio/WNPR

Finding a Positive Trend in Fairfield Office Vacancies

By: Harriet Jones

The number of empty offices in Fairfield County has declined slightly, according to one brokerage - the first time they've seen that trend in several years.

Choyce Peterson, a commercial real estate brokerage in Fairfield County, keeps a close eye on the marketplace in office rentals, on behalf of businesses looking for space.

In the years since the great recession, there's generally been a glut of commercial real estate. Vacancy rates have run at over 20 percent of all office space. One of the enduring problems has been large companies like UBS and Pitney Bowes moving their operations, and then offering hundreds of thousands of square feet on the rental market.

"While the vacancy rate is high in Fairfield County, what really hurts is the fact that these large buildings have large blocks of space available," said John Hannigan of Choyce Peterson. "If you were to go and survey the multi-tenanted buildings, there's a very healthy low-teens to mid-teens type vacancy occurring right now."

And Hannigan said that in 2015, smaller office buildings saw new tenants emerging. "They're primarily service companies, and they're organic, being grown here in Connecticut. They're growing, they're adding employees," he said.

Hannigan said bargain prices in some part of the county may continue to see the vacancy rate tick downwards this year. He also believes GE's headquarters campus in Fairfield will sell quickly, and not add to the problem.

"Certainly that is negative news for Fairfield County and the state of Connecticut," said Peterson. "But that 68 acre parcel with their buildings on it will be sold. And it perhaps will be repurposed to residential, assisted living, or some type of office slash educational component."