The southern half of New Hampshire is the state’s most active region, and a thriving submarket exists here along the Atlantic Ocean. The Seacoast market follows Interstate 95 up the coast and goes inland along the state’s border with Maine to the city of Rochester. It also follows Route 101 west toward Manchester, effectively stopping at Exeter.

“The retail market is the strongest sector here, primarily because New Hampshire does not have a sales tax, and Maine and Massachusetts do,” says Kent White, vice president of brokerage services with the Portsmouth, New Hampshire, office of CB Richard Ellis - New England. “So New Hampshire benefits from people who live in southern Main and northern Massachusetts who come to New Hampshire when they want to make big purchases.”

Nevertheless, retail is seeing less activity. The exit of both Circuit City and Linens ‘N Things from the market have also taken they toll. There is not a lot of vacancy in the market, but demand is minimal and leasing is slow.

“I have been in New Hampshire for 10 years and traditionally retail has always been strong,” White says. “Certainly in the past few months, we’ve started to see a softening in the retail market.”

Portsmouth, located on the coast near the Maine border, is the largest city in the submarket and sees a majority of new development. Pease International Tradeport, an old air force base located at I-95 and the Spaulding Turnpike that was redeveloped into a business park in the early 1990s, is a hub for office and industrial activity. Recently, the business park saw a 75,000-square-foot lease from the U.S. Passport Center, a 56,000-square-foot lease from Salient Surgical Technologies and a 50,000-square-foot lease from Newmarket International.

“It’s been a very successful business park and most of the activity each year in this market — at least half of it — is at the Pease Tradeport,” White says.

Like many other parts of the Northeast, activity has slowed somewhat in the Seacoast, with many people taking a wait-and-see approach to deals and development. Some activity is still occurring, though. A new 350,000-square-foot retail center in Greenland is nearing completion. The center, which has signed anchor tenants Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse, Target and Stop & Shop, is expecting a summer completion.

In Portsmouth, a local real estate family is developing a 50,000-square-foot office building with ground-floor retail at 99 Bow Street right on the downtown waterfront. This project is expecting a fall completion. White sees this activity as no reason to doubt that the Seacoast can handle the current recession.

“Generally speaking, I think southern New Hampshire will weather the storm better than most other New England markets,” White says.

— Coleman Wood

©2009 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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