Watching your dollars: Congressional rents - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Watching your dollars: Congressional rents

By Tony Galli - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook | Blog

MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- A real estate deal between political rivals democratic Sen. Russ Feingold and republican challenger Terrence Wall is deemed so good, the now-awkward business connection during a heated campaign is tolerated.

A survey of local commercial realtors indicates Feingold's rental of office space in Middleton from Wall is for an above-market price. 

Real estate documents show Feingold pays Wall's company nearly $55,000 annually to lease the federal office space.

Documents show when the lease was first signed in 2000, the rate per square foot was $27.98.  

Current lease terms are $23.75 per square foot.

FirstWeber commercial realty director Pat Carpenter said the average cost per square foot in communities on the fringe of Madison trends lower.   "Probably in the $14 to $20 range."

But Carpenter said tax and facility considerations, such as common area maintenance, can factor into the per square foot calculation.

Feingold's office space is cheaper for taxpayers than an office lease maintained by another member of Congress in southern Wisconsin.

Real estate documents show Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's downtown Madison office carries an annual lease amount of $62,676.

Local realtors said downtown commercial property carries the highest per square foot cost, with the market driven significantly by the public sector.

"The downtown market is probably the most active and stable in the area because of the big influx of government and association-type business,"  said Capital Place Real Estate developer Rob Zache.

These deals for congressional office space are being made in a commercial real estate market savaged by some of the same forces at work in the slow-to-recover housing market.

Zache said a lingering lack of available capital for private sector commercial real estate development gives government elements of the market considerable leverage.

"Public entities have pretty much been the only game in town."

Realtors said the Janesville commercial real estate market is less expensive than the Madison area.

Documents show Congressman Paul Ryan's downtown Janesville federal office is leased annually for $14,544. 

Spokespersons for Ryan, Baldwin and Feingold all said lease deals are negotiated to try to save taxpayer money.  

Other considerations in locating congressional offices are security and accessibility.

If Ryan, Baldwin and Feingold win reelection, they will simultaneously have an opportunity to improve on office leases or relocate.   All their current leases expire at the end of this Congress on January 2, 2011.

If Wall defeats Feingold and others, Wall will lose a tenant as he gains a senate seat.

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