Run On Retail Space Has Phones Ringing

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jul. 29, 2013 12:00 am  

The occupancy rate for retail space in Pulaski County ratcheted up to 92.6 percent in spring 2013. That figure stood at 91.7 percent a year ago, according to data compiled by the Central Arkansas Commercial Data Exchange.

The affiliation of local commercial real estate professionals pools sales and leasing information for 359 retail properties with more than 16.8 million SF.

“The phone is ringing, which has not been that case the past couple years,” said Mark Bingman, vice president at Little Rock’s Rector Phillips Morse Inc.

“We’re under the national vacancy rate, which is just over 10 percent. Restaurants seem to be the most active, but there are other retailers looking as well.”

Costco has scouted the market, Lowe’s continues circling and CVS Caremark is expected to roll into town to compete with archrival Walgreen’s. Many companies are focused on finding and redeveloping properties left vacant by the shakeout of retailers.

“When all the bargains are gone, all the national retailers will re-evaluate where they are,” said Jeff Yates, partner at Little Rock’s Irwin Partners. “There’s at least a couple hundred thousand SF of retail space rumbling around the market, but they just can’t find a deal they want to do.

“There are not any medium to large suites available, in the 15,000-SF to 40,000-SF range. The bottom line is we don’t have a lot of available inventory, and the inventory we do have available is small shop space.”

A 120,000-SF Bass Pro Shops, set to open in November, started a string of development activity at Little Rock’s Gateway Town Center, a 169-acre project at the northwest corner of Interstates 30 and 430.

Joe Jackson Sr. of Boca Raton, Fla., and Rich Rucker of Silverdale, Wash., intend to develop a 350,000-SF outlet mall. The number reflects bigger plans compared to last year’s 265,000 SF.

“The outlet mall site should close by October,” said Tommy Hodges, developer of Gateway Town Center. “They’re in lease up and doing great. I can’t give you any names, but it’s everybody you’ve ever heard of.

“The last plan I saw had 79 stores in it. They’ve really had a good response.”

Hodges said site work for the outlet mall should begin this fall with opening scheduled for November 2014.



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