Jan 27, 2023
The year ended with more uncertainty for the St. Louis office market. Vacancy rates remain high, up from 17.79% in Q1 2021 to 19.80% at the end of 2022. However, this was a slight improvement from the previous quarter. At 20.65%, Q3 2022 saw one of the highest vacancy rates recorded in recent history. Despite the high vacancy rates, overall asking rental rates have actually increased year-over-year. The average direct asking rental rate was $22.45 per square foot (PSF) at year end, up from $22.17 one year ago. Although vacancy rates were high, landlords did not want lower rates as there were many uncertainties still lingering from the pandemic market. As the year progressed, it became apparent the hybrid working model is here to stay and vacancy rate steadily climbed. Conditions remain favorable for occupiers as they have many office space options including many sublease spaces. Sublease space has been a key talking point since the beginning of the pandemic. Sublease space reached a new all-time high of 2.3 MSF (million square feet) available in Q4. Several major companies such as Centene, Magellan Health, and Bank of America vacated their large blocks class A space opting to downsize and hopefully recoup some of their money through subleases. Centene marketed the largest amount of sublease space totaling 591,631 SF throughout 5 buildings in the St. Louis market in Q3. Once again, the Clayton submarket has fared the best, with 11.01% vacancy and an average $30.01 PSF asking rental rates, the highest in the market to end the year. Early 2023 will bring new class A inventory to Clayton. Forsyth Pointe and Commerce Bank Tower are expected to deliver in Q1 2023, adding approximately 473,000 SF of office space to the Clayton market. These adjoining buildings are already 33% leased to Husch Blackwell alone. One positive note is a recent increase in demand. Strong leasing activity was prevalent throughout the year totaling 1.98 MSF of leased space. This is close to the 2.3 MSF that was leased in 2019 prior to the pandemic. Over 530,000 SF leased in 4Q 2022 helped boost absorption numbers which ended at positive 351,798 SF for the quarter. This is the first quarter with over 100,000 SF of positive absorption since Q4 of 2019, right before the pandemic hit. If this trend continues, the office market will be on a good path for 2023.