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First quarter 2011 economic review for the Fredericksburg area

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Date published: 4/16/2011

By Bill Freehling

The Fredericksburg-area economy was mostly improved in the first three months of 2011 compared with the same period the year before.

Though housing prices and commercial real estate rents were mostly down from that time period, most other local economic indicators--including housing sales, new vehicle registrations, sales tax receipts, unemployment rates, vacancy rates and leasing activity--improved. See the sidebar for the data.

Here were some of the business stories making news in the Fredericksburg region during the first quarter of 2011:

  • Exterior construction ends on new 718,000-square-foot, $312 million Russell-Knox building on Telegraph Road in North Stafford. BRAC jobs on the way to facility.

  • Germanna Community College breaks ground on its third academic building on the Fredericksburg-area campus. Facility is 50,000 square feet and three stories. A parking garage is also planned. Germanna also decides to move automotive training program to a new facility near the Stafford Regional Airport.

  • Home Properties Inc. breaks ground on Cobblestone Square apartment project in Fredericksburg, which has the potential to bring hundreds of people within walking distance of downtown business district. In other apartment news, McLean-based Insight Property Group buys the 200-unit Townsend Square Apartment community in Fredericksburg for $18.3 million, and work continues on the Haven complex at Celebrate Virginia South.

  • Capital Ale House organizes inaugural "Fredericksburg Green Scene" event downtown for St. Patrick's Day.

  • One Richmond-based bar and restaurant, Home Team Grill, opens in Fredericksburg's Eagle Village while another, F.W. Sullivan's, plans to open downtown later this year.

  • K. Hovnanian Homes closes in on a deal to buy the undeveloped portions of the Leeland Station mixed-use subdivision in Stafford County after community's developer declares bankruptcy.

  • Walmart continues to explore possible sites for store near Wilderness battlefield in Orange County after dropping controversial plans to locate on a spot that preservationists deemed too close to the historic area.

  • Foode and Longstreet's were among the new businesses to open downtown. Castiglia's renovated its William Street restaurant and built a wood-burning brick oven for pizza. Fredericksburg discusses joining the Virginia Main Street Program.

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Local economic data

Here is a look at some local economic indicators for the first quarter of 2011 (January-March, where possible) compared with recent quarters. Unless otherwise noted, the data are for Fredricksburg, Caroline, King George, Stafford and Spotsylvania.

Home sales

Q1 2011: 840

Q4 2010: 819

Q1 2010: 819

Source: Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

Median housing prices

March 2011: $190,000

March 2010: $200,000

March 2009: $199,000

March 2008: $265,000

Source: Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

Unemployment rate

Feb. 2011*: 6.4 percent

Feb. 2010: 7.4 percent

Feb. 2009: 6.2 percent

*March data aren't out yet.

Source: Virginia Employment Commission

New vehicle registrations

Q1 2011: 2,917

Q4 2010: 2,810

Q1 2010: 2,375

Source: Virginia Automobile Dealers Association

Local sales tax receipts

Dec. 2010-Feb. 2011*: $9.37 million

Dec. 2009-Feb. 2010: $8.73 million

Dec. 2008-Feb. 2009: $9.30 million

*Taxable sales receipts aren't yet available for March.

Source: Virginia Department of Taxation

Commercial real estate vacancy rates

(Retail, Office, Industrial/Flex)

Q1 2011: 6.9 percent, 12.4 percent, 19.1 percent

Q1 2010: 7 percent, 13.3 percent, 19.6 percent

Source: Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer

Commercial real estate asking rents

(Retail, Office, Industrial/Flex)

Q1 2011: $16.72, $21.69, $5.30

Q1 2010: $17.62, $23.26, $4.90

Source: Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer

Commercial real estate leasing activity

(Retail; Office; Industrial/Flex)

Q1 2011: 81,366 square feet; 132,745 SF; 33,677 SF

Q1 2010: 50,741 square feet; 46,508 SF; 41,319 SF

Source: Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer

About this report

This is a quarterly feature in which The Free Lance-Star Business team gives a snapshot of area market conditions and reviews some of the important happenings over the past three months that have affected the area's economy. Look for it a few weeks after the end of each quarter, and let us know if there are additional things you'd like to see here.