Creativity and flexibility help lease hard-to-fill space

Creativity is key to filling vacant retail space. Trampoline parks have added a bounce to vacant, dark grocery stores, while colleges and ambulatory care facilities have added life to vacant mall spaces. While dinner cinemas, bowling alleys, museums and other entertainment business remain the popular space fillers, service businesses are rapidly replacing traditional in line spaces. The service business now accounts for at least 70 percent of tenants.  Department stores and big box tenants are slowly accepting these new unconventional tenants as the landscape for retail continues to change.

The retail business is all about creativity and innovation, and the industry is seeing a metamorphosis right now. Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust's centers attracted the up-and-coming medical operations in different regions. The operators want an exclusive location to promote their brand and also want exceptional visibility. The medical community desperately wants to become more visible to the public eye, and they are willing to pay for it. Medical tenants will pay as much, or more, per square foot as the top retailer for the opportunity to lease high-profile spaces. With medical centers becoming popular in class A buildings, aging neighborhood centers are being re-purposed as space for trade schools, churches and call centers.

A new wave of innovative re-users is starting to emerge in the retail pool. In Texas, influential business are moving into the market and moving into previously hard to lease space. Foreign chains are making their way into the market by ramping up expansion plans and boosting overall demand. With these new adaptive tenants, non-retail tenants are becoming perfectly acceptable in shopping centers now. The lesson to remember is to always be flexible. 


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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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