The Columbia, South Carolina, medical office market continues to be controlled by the four major hospitals operating within the Columbia metropolitan area. The four hospitals include Lexington Medical Center, Providence Hospital and The Palmetto Health Alliance comprised of Palmetto Baptist Medical Center and Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital. Columbia's medical office market consists of approximately 825,000 square feet of space located in Columbia's Central Business District, West Columbia, Northeast Columbia and Forest Acres. The occupancy rate of hospital based, medical office buildings (MOB's) as of June 30, 1998 was 86.6%, up substantially from 80.2% as of April 30, 1997 and 75.1 % as of June 1996. The tightening of medical office space within the Columbia area is indicative of the growth of hospital services and the competitiveness of the major hospitals operating within the area. The increase in occupancy also shows the continuing trend of physician alliances with multiple hospitals, thereby increasing the physician occupancy of hospital based MOB's.

The increased occupancy rate indicates an absorption during the past fifteen months of approximately 62,000 square feet. However, occupancy rates are predicted to change dramatically during the next twelve months as three new MOB 's are currently under construction. Lexington Medical Center will complete a 152,000 square foot MOB located adjacent to Lexington Medical Center. Palmetto Richland Memorial Hospital will also complete 135,000 square feet identified as 14 Richland Medical Park. Providence Hospital will complete an 80,000 square foot facility located adjacent to Providence Hospital Northeast. These three buildings will add 367,000 square feet of medical office space to the market during 1999. At the present time 50% of the total space under construction is preleased to various physician practices and hospital entities. The construction of this amount of space will increase the total market by 45%. This significant increase in MOB space will undoubtedly result in a weakening of the 86.6% occupancy rate achieved mid year 1998. However, this reduction in occupancy should be short lived as many physician practices and hospitals continue to expand and absorb space at an unprecedented pace. The additional space being developed by the major hospitals does not include any new development by individual physician practices or free standing offices, clinics or other such similar medical facilities.

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