Report: Vacant Retail Spaces Are Dwindling

Once-empty big box properties are now being leased all over the Twin Cities.

Call it another signal of a gradually, but steadily, improving economy.
 
The supply of vacant “large box” retail spaces in the Twin Cities has been cut in half over the last five years as new retailers are opening stores in once-empty spaces. During the recession, numerous retailers closed underperforming locations or filed bankruptcy and went out of business. 
 
But data from Bloomington-based Cushman & Wakefield/NorthMarq (CWN) points to a reversal of that trend.
 
CWN’s numbers show that in May 2009, there were approximately 80 vacant “large box” retail locations with 15,000 square feet or more across the Twin Cities. As of March, that number had dropped to 39 vacant spaces. And the number could fall to 32 empty retail locations by June, based on deals currently in the pipeline.
 
“There is still demand for space. It may not be the same uses that were once in place, but there’s still demand for space,” Tom Martin, a commercial real estate broker who focuses on retail space for CWN, told Twin Cities Business. “And there’s very little new space coming online.”
 
Martin said that looking back, he feels the tide began to turn in late 2011, when retailers began leasing space again after the recession.
 
“It’s steadily decreased since,” Martin said of empty big box and other large retail spaces.
 
Some of the retailers who are expanding in the Twin Cities include Total Wine, Hobby Lobby, Becker’s Furniture World, and LA Fitness. Total Wine and Hobby Lobby are both newcomers to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Martin noted.
 
The latest market statistics from CWN reported that the retail vacancy rate fell to 7.2 percent at the end of 2013, the lowest vacancy rate seen since 2007.