As office workers continue their slow migration back into traditional settings — a process that is expected to accelerate throughout the upcoming summer months — several commercial real estate professionals expressed optimism about the pace of leasing activity throughout the central Maryland region.

 Work-from-home fatigue, the yearning for employee collaboration and contact, and the strength of a diversified regional economy were all major factors for this positive outlook expressed during a recent webinar sponsored by the Maryland Economic Development Association. The session was moderated by Claudia Yates, Chief Operating Officer for Scheer Partners.

Panelist Vince Bagli

“We’ll know considerably more by September, but conditions are improving with employees returning to work and a noticeable increase in showings and leasing activity in our portfolio of about 4 million square feet of office space,” stated Vince Bagli of Merritt Properties and former NAIOP-MD President. “It would be difficult to keep employees away from the office in the long term in many cases. Factors such as communication, culture, teaching, onboarding, friendship and mentoring are all reasons to return. It is taking some time for employees to gain confidence in the safety of the workplace and to ease their way back. This is happening and it is translating into companies making leasing and office renewal decisions with greater frequency.”

“Companies initially embraced working from home but realized this is not a long-term solution for a variety of reasons, including the need to separate work from home,” explained Rob Ferree, President of Bowman Development Corporation. “Labor remains the number one challenge for every company from professional services firms to manufacturers, and the competition to provide the most attractive wages and environment is increasing.”

Merry Mears, Principal with NAI Coastal in Salisbury, reports unparalleled interest for last-mile warehouse and logistics users with Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart and more looking in the Eastern Shore area.

“Population continues to shift from the urban area to the suburbs and this is generating immediate needs for the same day or next day delivery of goods,” Mears said. “This trend is placing pressure on homebuilders to deliver residential product and we expect this to impact the medical sector and other ancillary industries.”  

Maryland, however, needs to address that shift away from urban areas, Bagli said.

“Businesses and residents have been exiting Baltimore City and now it is important to lure them back because a vibrant city makes the entire region stronger,” Bagli added. “I think the pendulum still has the potential to swing in our favor if many positive attractions downtown, including the Meyerhoff and the Hippodrome, open up, our baseball team improves and the Ravens remain competitive. And, of course, the number one issue for the city will be improving public safety and giving people the confidence to stay or return to city life in Baltimore.”