A record 3.25 million feet of office...

A record 3.25 million feet of office space was leased in Orange County during 1984, according to The Newport Economics Group Inc. The figure is a 2% increase from the 3.17 million square feet leased in 1983, but still below the forecast of 3.4 million.

Robert Dunham, president of the Newport Beach research firm, said the figures reported in its annual Orange County Office Space Market Survey reflect a lower-than-expected level of business activity during the last half of the year, and low vacancy rates in some areas.

The report said the current vacancy rate is 12.1%, for a total of 3.7 million feet of vacant office space, down significantly from 17.5% vacancy rate a year ago.

Other forecasts have predicted that the office building boom in the last half of the year will push up Orange County's office vacancy rate again within the next 18 months, and lead to stiff pricing and promotion competition among developers. The Newport Economics report said space under construction increased fourfold in 1984, to a record 6.4-million square feet, from 1.5 million the year before.

The county's busiest office area continues to be the office parks near the John Wayne Airport, with that sector accounting for about 43% of the leasing activity. Rental rates for newer low-rise space in that area average $1.76 a square foot. Prices were the highest at the Newport Center, with an average $1.98-per-square-foot leasing cost.

However, the leasing costs for newer high-rise buildings are highest in the airport area, the study showed, with prices ranging from $2.07 to $2.24 a square foot.

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