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Room to grow

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Demand for space uneven throughout city limits

The departure of Krush, the bar/restaurant that closed three weeks ago, left another empty storefront in town and opened up an additional 4,000 feet of lease space in an inventory that was already capacious.

 

The Sequim Gazette recently conducted a very simple survey of commercial rental space available within city limits — specifically space available for retail operations. Given the number of nooks and crannies in the city and the constant movement of commercial operations, the survey isn’t likely to be perfect.

 

The difficulty also is increased by the fungibility of many of the properties: some of the spaces last used for an office also are suited for use as retail space.

 

And vice versa.

 

Nevertheless, the results are interesting (see box, page A-8). According to the Gazette’s survey, there are currently more than 135,000 square feet of retail space for lease within city limits. That’s a little more than 3 acres under roof — just slightly smaller than the Sequim Costco.

 

Demand for retail space is distributed unequally throughout the city.

 

The success story in recent days has been found on the western part of the city, particularly within the Sequim Village Marketplace where Sequim’s “big box” stores are located. For example, the now fully leased strip mall that runs north-south in the parking lot in front of Office Depot. The newest tenants include Ben’s Bikes and Fit for Life.

 

Ed Sumpter, a real estate agent with Blue Sky Realty, points to those leases as part of a larger success story, and as an indication that business is perhaps making a comeback in Sequim.

 

He said there are advantages to leasing space within proximity to the big box stores. Because of the research conducted by the stores, there is a greater depth of knowledge regarding shopper demographics. “(Potential renters) can look at the median age, median income of the customers,” he said, “If you’re in a center that’s anchored by Home Depot, you look at their demographics. “

 

“Are you compatible?”

 

As a result, Sumpter said, “There isn’t much left at this end of town, which is very positive.”

 

West end news

 

Sumpter said he anticipates the spaces now available across the road in the Walmart shopping center, 1400 W. Washington Street, also will soon be filled.

 

At 5,000 square feet, the former state liquor store is the biggest of the available spots. The former Pizza Factory contains another 3,000 square feet, while two additional storefronts together have another 3,000 square feet.

All are now owned by a Texas bank following the default of the former owners.

 

Bob Torres, the leasing agent for the bank, says it’s been a tough sell.

 

“The liquor store and the pizza place are just so big and it’s not a big business environment. People want 800 to 900 square feet. So we’ve got the price down now.”

 

He added that there’s a perception that the units are “too far from Washington. But it’s only half a block.”

Torres said newly implemented strategies may help, including a significant reduction in the asking price per square foot for leases.

 

Rock and a hard place

Torres also handles many of the leases for Rock Plaza, which is now held in receivership by Columbia Bank. In addition to the former home of Krush, there are another 8,000 square feet of unfinished space, with another 3,000 square feet of what Torres calls “semi-finished space” — space with installed walls and floors.

 

Torres said Rock Plaza, which is even farther from Washington Street, is an even tougher sell than the Walmart shopping center properties. Krush, he noted, is as big as an Applebee’s.

 

So large, in fact, that “only a franchise” could likely fill it. But with just 6,000 people in Sequim, that’s likely going to take a while, he said.

 

The largest collection of available space is in Sequim is in the Bell Creek Plaza, which in the last two years has seen the departure of both Staples, a business supply store, and Del’s, a feed and farm store.

The plaza now has 46,000 square feet of space available in the larger units, plus another 8,000-12,000 square feet in smaller units. An additional 20,000 square feet is empty, but continues to be leased by Rite Aid, the former tenant.

 

Leasing agents for the center declined to provide further details, but Sumpter said it’s hardly a lost cause.

“I don’t think they need to do anything; they just need some new energy. At a certain time, that end of town is going to kick off because most of the new growth is going to take place there. And you have more vacant space.”

 

He said the traffic flow isn’t particularly an issue. “There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that end of town. They’re just not being real aggressive.”

 

Sumpter suggested that having a local leasing agent might help.

 

“I think 90 percent of the issue for that end of town is simply perception. I’d lower the rate to 80 cents a foot and let every local person know that I’m the best deal in town. In time the rates would recover.”

 


Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.
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