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Vacant Storefronts Can be Repurposed into Retail Incubators

Retail incubator

Vacant Storefronts Can be Repurposed into Retail Incubators

They can provide an immediate boost in shopping districts and grow future businesses into long-term tenants.

  • Written by Ilana Preuss, Development Magazine

The COVID-19 pandemic has left America’s retail districts pockmarked with empty storefronts, but there is a creative solution. These vacant spaces, which often can be purchased or rented at reduced prices, are prime targets for conversion into retail incubators.

Retail incubators, like business incubators, nurture new or small-scale entrepreneurs during the startup phase. They mitigate some of the challenges of opening a business by providing financial and technical assistance, such as the basics of marketing and business plans. Tenants typically share space, ideas and operating expenses in locations that they could not otherwise afford. Many spaces have flexible or temporary lease terms. Some allow for small-scale manufacturing and hold community events, such as product demonstrations, fashion shows and art openings.

In addition to real estate, retail incubators provide fledgling businesses with valuable resources such as technical and financial assistance.  

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, new business applications in the United States set an all-time record of 5.1 million in 2021. At the same time, the pandemic has led to consolidation of space and locations by major retail brands, which reduced the prospect of attracting businesses. The challenge for small businesses is they can’t immediately fill the footprints of major store closings. However, they can make temporary use of retail space to establish their businesses, and occupying formerly abandoned stores can help energize struggling downtowns.

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Class A Buildings Push Office Market Stabilization

Office market vacancy rates kept surging for the 10th straight quarter to start 2022, according to the NAIOP Research Foundation. The group recently published its Office Space Demand Forecast for Q2 2022. You can read the full report here
Office building
The group boasted that Class A buildings are key in many parts of the country, bolstering net absorption rates in areas like the Sun Belt. These work spaces are key in brining in skilled employees. The group said "suburban markets and life sciences hubs are recovering better than the national average as more employers embrace a return to the office and the pandemic eases."

Other key takeaways mentioned 

  • Leasing activity is up year over year, which signals that firms are more comfortable making longer-term commitments to office space. Property owners have been willing to offer greater tenant improvements to encourage signing, indicating that tenants still have the upper hand in lease negotiations. These signals indicate a move toward a more stable equilibrium as the office market finds its balance.
     
  • Given these trends and signs of a slowing – but still growing – economy, net office space absorption in the remaining three quarters of 2022 is forecast to be 46.9 million square feet, essentially unchanged from the previous forecast for these quarters (46.6 million square feet).
     
  • Total net absorption in 2023 is forecast to be 47.3 million square feet, with an additional 6.5 million square feet absorbed in the first quarter of 2024.