Retail Leasing Activity Regains Momentum

by George Waldon  on Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 12:00 am  

Signage indicates a 17,880-SF Staples is “coming soon” and will set up shop east of Target. Between the two national chains will be more than 7,600 SF of retail space, according the latest plans by Strode Properties Co. of Dallas.

Carter’s, a children’s apparel chain, will occupy a 4,016-SF slot, and the remaining 3,600 SF is unclaimed. The store would be the first in Arkansas for Carter’s Inc. of Atlanta, which also owns the OshKosh B’gosh chain and brand.

Other Park Avenue tenants listed include Verizon (4,055 SF), Mattress Firm (3,572 SF) and SportsClips (1,023 SF). This trio and 16,630-SF of planned, unclaimed space are part of a future 25,280-SF building.

This piece of the project is between the Staples site and the 7,918-SF Cheddar’s restaurant under construction at the southeast corner of the development, at South University Avenue and St. Vincent Circle.

A 4,500-SF AT&T store is on the drawing board for a 0.45-acre site at the northeast corner of the Park Avenue site. South of this location, a 6,000- to 8,000-SF retail building is planned.

The mixed-use, open-air lifestyle center development is backed with a $22.86 million funding agreement with Little Rock’s Bank of the Ozarks. If the current leasing site plan comes to fruition, more than 105,000 SF of retail space will come on line and join the Target at Park Avenue.

One piece of that puzzle is envisioned as a future two-story, 29,000-SF building to adjoin the old University Mall parking deck. Another is 15,000 SF of ground floor retail space with four stories of apartments above.

Two nearby four- or five-story buildings with 60,000-75,000 SF of residential space also are planned. The wild card at Park Avenue is Phase II at the west end of the parking deck with frontage on McKinley Street.

Depending on market demand, the site could be home to a 70,000-SF office building, 127-room hotel, 50,000-SF retail project or a 127-unit apartment complex.

Absorption of older, vacated retail space is picking up pace.

The former National Home Center project in west Little Rock is undergoing redevelopment as a Windstream data center. Ross Dress For Less is filling space formerly occupied by PC Hardware at 9101 W. Markham St.

Wal-Mart Market is said to be in the works for the former Harvest Foods store in Riverdale, and the old MM Cohn space at North Little Rock’s McCain Mall is undergoing a redevelopment as 12-screen movie theater as part of a $5.5 million project.

“Large, big-box retail space keeps getting gobbled up, which is great,” said Isaac Smith, principal at Colliers International in Little Rock.

At last report, the vacant 150,000-SF Wal-Mart store at 700 S. Bowman Road is destined for conversion into a supercenter.

Vacancy Rate in Pulaski County Declines
The first-quarter 2011 vacancy rate for commercial retail real estate in central Arkansas has dropped to 9.8 percent from the 10.6 percent of first-quarter 2010. It also has slipped when compared with the 10.1 percent of fourth-quarter 2010. Mark Bingman of Rector Phillips Morse was cautiously optimistic. “While it would appear that the retail market is improving with a positive absorption of approximately 52,500 SF, no new space was built during this last quarter.”



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