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April 19, 2005

"Bigger is not always better"

Commercial Real Estate EAST NORRITON - The small-office market has become a profitable niche for a Plymouth single-home and small-office developer.

of Plymouth invested $9.7 million last year to build and lease three small, Class A office buildings in East Norriton and Plymouth. Construction on a three-story, stone and stucco office building in East Norriton started in early 2003, said , vice president of . The $4 million, 15,350-square-foot building at 342 Germantown Pike was completed in April 2004. The first tenant, Monarch Construction, occupied a first-floor office. The company does residential renovations and construction for medical office interiors. "We have our niche in building smaller offices," Salamone said. "Germantown Pike is a wonderful road for office clients because it is very close to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Blue Route."

The office building, like many build, was conceived and built before the first client lease was signed, he said. It has also attracted Cardiology Consultants of Philadelphia, which opened a branch office in the East Norriton building for seven physicians. Fornance Physician Services of Norristown also has a branch office in the building.

Salamone said one advantage for the three commercial tenants is "each tenant feels like they have their own space. They are not one of 20 tenants in a building." The Plymouth development company also built and leased two small office buildings in Plymouth last year.

Construction on the two-story, red brick building at 526 Township Line Road started in November 2003 and was completed in October 2004. The first tenant for the $2.5 million building was BTI of North America, a dental implant company. Petriello & Royal, a Plymouth attorney group, moved into a second-floor office later that year.

Construction on the next-door, mirror-image building also started in November 2003 at 532 Township Line Road. The 8,800-square-foot, $3.2 million building was completed in January. Mayo Seitz Media took three-quarters of the building, leaving a 2,200-square-foot office for rent. A Montgomery County development official was resigned to the difficulties of the office-leasing market last year.

"The office market is the toughest," said Carmen S. Italia Jr., executive director of Montgomery County Industrial Development Corp. "There is no demand for office space now." "One building that is doing better than most is in West Conshohocken, the 300 Four Falls office building on the Schuylkill Expressway."

The seven-story office building on Route 23 was constructed in 2003. "We opened the building Christmas week of 2003 with one signed lease for 23,000 square feet," said Neil Gallagher, vice president of leasing and marketing for Berwind Property Group of Philadelphia. "We closed 2004 with 82 percent of the building leased." Berwind has leased 14 offices comprising 240,000 square feet, Gallagher said. "The West Conshohocken office market has fared much better than our counterparts across the river," he said. Ease of access seems to be a prime concern for tenants. "It is still a bit of a slow market in Conshohocken but it is in a recovery stage now."

(Reprinted with permission from The Times Herald)

, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462