C&W Q1 report: Industrial real estate sector sustains strong momentum, while office flight-to-quality continues

Cushman & Wakefield on Thursday released its first-quarter industrial and office real estate statistics for New Jersey, showing continued demand in the industrial market and the persistence of the flight-to-quality trend in the office market.

“The New Jersey industrial sector sustained its strong leasing momentum into the first quarter of 2024, underpinned by significant activity across both northern and central New Jersey,” John Obeid, senior research manager, said. “While the market faced challenges with negative net absorption and a deceleration in preleased deliveries, the Class A segment showed resilience compared to other segments.”

Strong leasing momentum in New Jersey’s industrial sector continued into Q1, with new leasing activity reaching 5.8 million square feet, representing a 5% increase year-over-year, while remaining 11.9% above the two-year quarterly average of 5.2 million square feet. New leasing activity was evenly distributed between North and Central Jersey, predominantly driven by TJX’s 1.3 million-square-foot lease in the Meadowlands.

Despite this strong leasing volume, the market recorded negative net absorption of 2.5 million square feet for the quarter. This downturn was primarily attributed to the slowdown in preleased deliveries and the reemergence of large vacant spaces in the market, leading to a rise in occupancy losses. This dynamic increased the vacancy rate 80 basis points quarter-over-quarter, to 6.6%.

The Class A segment demonstrated resilience amidst these challenges, with just 108,217 square feet of negative net absorption recorded. Negative Class A net absorption was driven by one large new sublease vacancy totaling 735,000 square feet at 700 Linden Logistics Way in Linden.

The completion of new warehouses, predominantly delivered fully vacant, also contributed to the increase in the vacancy rate. Of the 10 projects totaling 1.8 million square feet completed in the first quarter, only one was delivered fully occupied. Pre-leasing figures also witnessed a decline, dropping 2.6% during the first quarter from a recent high of 89.2% in 2020.

“The flight-to-quality trend is still very prevalent in New Jersey’s office market, evidenced by numerous large new lease transactions at Class A properties during the first quarter. While the demand for top-tier office spaces has continued and these transactions are noteworthy, their immediate impact on vacancy and net absorption remained somewhat constrained due to the emergence of several large vacant spaces to the market,” Obeid said.

The onset of 2024 brought forth a varied landscape within New Jersey’s office market. Despite the challenges, the demand for office space remained resilient, with new leasing activity reaching 2.1 million square feet, up 11.1% from the two-year quarterly average. However, this positive trend was offset by a rapid influx of newly vacant spaces into the market during the quarter. The market grappled with ongoing occupancy losses, recording negative 3.2 million square feet of net absorption. As such, the vacancy rate continued to climb, increasing 280 basis points year-over-year, to 23.2%.

New lease transactions during the first quarter highlight the persistent demand for top-tier office space. In the largest new lease, Hackensack Meridian Health will consolidate its offices into a 142,916-square-foot, build-to-suit in Metropark. Additionally, Children’s Place’s renewal and Pierre Fabre’s relocation to 500 Plaza Drive in Secaucus further underscores the flight-to-quality trend.