Plenty of space for rent in Havelock

Published: Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 08:36 PM.

“What we’re experiencing here is pretty much true for all areas of the country right now,” he said. “That issue is affected by a lot of factors. First of all, it’s the economy. Retail took a huge hit, especially small retail, when the economy started performing poorly a few years ago. It’s just starting to come back. The amount of time to recover from that, especially in a small community like ours, is much longer than a larger community like Atlanta or Raleigh. That’s the primary factor.”

He said snapping fingers and getting large chain stores to move in just doesn’t happen. He said large retailers are very formulaic in the way they make decisions to locate in an area. Most use demographic studies that include data on population and income, and many have their own particular store designs and won’t go into existing spaces.

“We might perceive enough traffic going in front of a building to warrant a restaurant or a certain type of store but it just might not fit their model, or if it’s a franchise-type situation, they might not have someone who has been willing to take on that area. That’s one part of it,” Downs said.

He said the appearances of retail complexes and shopping centers can also have an effect on attracting new business. Plus, he said, business owners may not want to locate in a complex with empty retail spaces because the amount of customer traffic may not be high.

“Where I came from in Dayton, Ohio, is a perfect example of that where you had a downtown that just suffered from empty space after empty space after empty space and people see that and it just becomes sort of a self-perpetuating thing that you have empty space and people don’t want to be there where there’s empty space,” Downs said. “They want to be where there’s a lot of people.”

As for a solution to all the empty business space, Downs said redevelopment is sometimes an option, but tearing down an old complex to build a new one — with no guarantees of new businesses coming in — can be daunting for property owners and developers.

“Building new, in places like Havelock, can only happen if you tear other stuff down and that’s a hard subject to wrestle with,” Downs said. “Some might suggest tearing down that old shopping center. Well, there’s significant cost in that and you don’t necessarily have something to fill that space, so redevelopment has to be looked at with a very sharp eye.”

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