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Office REITs Cater to Commuters with Electric Vehicles

09/11/2012 | By Carisa Chappell

As commuters seek more fuel-efficient transportation options, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are gradually making their way to offices around the country. While some REITs are installing these EV stations at their properties for the first time, others are busy expanding the number of stations to meet the growing demand from tenants with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Corporate Office Properties Trust (NYSE: COPT) decided in January 2012 to install EV charging stations at two of its largest business parks. Usage fees are about $1.25 an hour for the EV stations from SemaConnect, a developer of smart electric vehicle charging stations.

"There was a demand with one or two cars and there was starting to be more interest at those properties," says Greg Gardes, the Maryland-based company's regional director. "Tenants use them daily, and we've now gone from two users to seven regular users at our National Business Park."

Both of the company's new charging stations are located at office parks in Maryland, where the company has large holdings. In addition to National Business Park, there's a charging station at Corporate Office's Airport Square Business Park.adjacent to the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Federal Realty Investment Trust (NYSE: FRT) recently added more EV charging stations to its properties in Maryland and Virginia. Office tenants, employees and shoppers frequenting Rockville Town Square, Bethesda Row and Pentagon Row will be able to charge their cars while working or shopping at these mixed-use properties.

John Tschiderer, Federal Realty's vice president of development, says the company thought the EV stations would be a good way to stay competitive and capture a piece of the market by offering the opportunity for consumers to continue to lower their fuel costs.

"As the product becomes more affordable and readily available in the marketplace and as electric vehicles and their production costs are better understood by car manufacturers, there will be more electric vehicles, which will place a higher demand on car charging stations," Tschiderer says.

He adds that in addition to car charging stations, Federal Realty also helps its tenants and consumers by offering reserved spots for the Zip Car car-sharing service, bike share stations and smart bike paths.

KBS Real Estate Investment Trust II (KBS REIT II) has added six EV charging stations at Union Bank Plaza, a 40-story office and retail tower in downtown Los Angeles. The company placed the stations in the building's valet parking area, and they are available to both tenants and customers of the buildings.

"Thanks to rising gas prices and the growing public desire to reduce emissions, electric vehicles are increasingly popular, even in car-crazy Southern California," says Brent Carroll, KBS' senior vice president and asset manager.

Kilroy Realty Corp. (NYSE: KRC) recently announced the installation of its first EV charging stations at its regional offices in San Diego. Steve Scott, Kilroy's senior vice president, says the company wants to install more and is currently evaluating all of its San Diego properties to see where there is need for EV connectivity. Plans are in the works to add stations to Kilroy's Mission City and Liberty Station projects in San Diego, as well as to a proposed mixed-use project in Carmel Valley.