What was once denied, is now the newest buzzphrase in Montgomery County: the county office market is weak. With no large employer moving to the county in over a decade, the government - and struggling office building owners - are scrambling to temper once-high hopes.
The gleaming building at 7550 Wisconsin Avenue, that was completely renovated into a Class A office tower by developer Akridge, was poised to become a hot business address. 18 months later? It's a vacant monument to a business climate that fails to appeal to major firms searching America for a new corporate headquarters.
With no significant policy or taxation changes on the horizon, no plans to build a new Potomac River crossing for the Dulles Airport access international firms demand, and landlords having to still pay their bills while vacant, some are now thinking small.
Montgomery County's Economic Development Fund is now offering a program designed to attract smaller firms to vacant office space in the county. The MOVE program will offer $4-per-square-foot rent subsidies to a first-time renting firm that meets 4 criteria. Spaces that qualify are limited to those between 2,000 and 10,000 square feet.
Akridge is ahead of the downward curve in Bethesda.
The company is currently in the process of dividing the fourth floor of 7550 Wisconsin into 3 suites - on spec, as there are still no tenants. But going forward, those new suites would likely qualify for the new MOVE subsidy. There are still many other floors in the building, however. According to a source, Akridge is open to dividing other floors into suites, if the initiative proves successful on the fourth floor.