by Dan Rafter
Presidential elections can be gloomy affairs. Just watch the Democratic and Republican debates: The way the candidates talk, you’d think the United States was in its worst decline ever.
But candidates tend to play up the negative in an effort to tell voters how they, and only they, can save the country. You’ll often hear candidates state that the current presidential election is the most important one ever for the United States. They say that a lot. Not every presidential election can be the “most important” ever, can it?
In reality, life isn’t perfect in the United States. The economy still makes plenty of people nervous. But the economy is in the middle of a long upward swing. The national unemployment rate has dipped. Consumers are spending again.
And the commercial real estate market across the Midwest? Well, commercial real estate is on a big upward trajectory. Just look at the major metropolitan areas across the Midwest. You’ll see downtowns that are growing, booming apartment development, spec industrial buildings and even signs of life in the office and retail markets.
Here’s some prime evidence that the CRE market is thriving: The U.S. office market in 2015 saw its best year for demand since 2006, according to the fourth quarter office-market report recently released by Cushman & Wakefield.
According to the report, net absorption in the U.S. office market hit 21.3 million square feet in the fourth quarter of last year. For all of 2015, net absorption in this sector came in at 81.7 million square feet, making last year the best for net absorption since 2006, according to Cushman & Wakefield.
One of the stronger office markets in the fourth quarter? Cushman & Wakefield pointed to Chicago, which absorbed 3.4 million square feet of office space.
Vacancy rates fell across the nation, too, falling to 13.9 percent in the fourth quarter. That’s down from 14.7 percent one year earlier. Vacancy rates were even lower in Central Business Districts, with the overall U.S. vacancy rate in these urban centers falling to 11.7 percent last year, down from 12.7 percent a year earlier.
Office rents are rising, too, as would be expected. Cushman & Wakefield reported that average asking office rents ended the year at $28.15 a square foot, up 4.2 percent from a year earlier.
Several Midwest markets saw plenty of office absorption in the fourth quarter. In Cincinnati, for example, Cushman & Wakefield reported that the office sector had net absorption of 372,091 square feet, a big jump from the 122,270 square feet this market absorbed in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Also in Ohio, Cleveland absorbed 301,092 square feet of office space in the fourth quarter compared to 104,842 square feet in the fourth quarter of 2014.
And that’s just the good news from one sector. Read the multifamily reports for most any metropolitan area. You’ll find vacancy rates tumbling, asking rents rising and new units coming out of the ground.
The presidential candidates might see nothing but negatives. But the rest of us? Sure, we can’t ignore the very real economic challenges that still face the country. But if you take an honest look? You’ll find that are plenty of positives to celebrate today, too.