Foreign investors now own at least 32 major downtown properties, nearly doubling their overseas holdings here in the last few years, a local real estate executive said here yesterday.
George Voris, a vice president of Coldwell Banker & Co., a commercial brokerage firm, told a group of area business representatives that those foreign holdings include 26 major office buildings and three hotels, and the most of the purchases have been made in the last two or three years.
Voris, who developed the figures from public records and private sources, said most of the buyers are from Europe, although a few are from the Middle East.
"Foreign buyers are taking the lead in the competition," Voris said. "Some now are buying land here, creating their own real estate."
He predicted that with increases in competition from foreign sources and in the use of investment dollars from pension funds to purchase real estate, prices of downtown properties are going to continue to climb.
As a result, downturns in the economy shouldn't affect the city's commercial real estate picture, Voris noted.
His remarks were part of an allday seminar on international business in Washington sponsored by the D.C. Bar, the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade and the International Trade Association of Northern Virginia.
The seminar focused on the growing involvement in the international business community of area financial insituations, local governments and other commercial ventures.
A series of panels addressed issues such as attracting international business, the area and national tax picture, and the availability of professional services that the city's promoters say make Washington a sound place from which to conduct a variety of international financial activities.
Mayor Marion Barry told a luncheon audience that the city government is willing to do anything it can to attract foreign investment and is "prepared to expedite" the government paperwork process that can delay decisions to bring businesses to a place like Washington.
Pointing out that foreign investment in this country totals about $41 billion. Barry said his concern "is that the District of Columbia ought to get our fair share, actually more than our fair share" because of the city's failure to lure foreign investment here in the past.
Barry said that the city "is not as recession-proof as people make it" appear and that the international business area "is a logical one to go through."
Barry said his trip to Africa earlier this year and his continuing interest in international affairs are difficult for some constituents to understand, but that his efforts revolve around attracting foreign dollars to the city.
Barry's international task force, which will hold its first meeting this week, is designed to do more than "better service the international community," he said. "The primary thrust of the task force will be on ways to attract more foreign and domestic investment into the area," Barry said.