Nationally the commercial market continues to recover, according to Lawrence Yun, the National Association of REALTORS® Chief Economist. Yun predicts an improving commercial market, with the multi-family sector leading the way based on what he expects will be an expanding GDP, an easing in commercial lending and continued job growth.
The Charlottesville Market
Hock Hockensmith, with Roy Wheeler Realty, Co., described the Charlottesville market as “still improving, with multi-family still leading.” However, he added that office space is also picking up, as is the industrial sector. “There are also fewer retail vacancies,” he added.
Robin Amato, with Real Estate III Commercial Properties, described an active commercial market with noticeable spikes in leasing and purchasing in both the retail and office sectors. She added that there is a good mix of existing businesses moving up to bigger and nicer spaces and new businesses coming on board. Compared to when the market was in recession, “we’re seeing less downsizing,” she said.
She referenced the Corner as one area that is active right now. One example is the Freeman-Victorius frame shop, which is moving after nearly fifty years in the same location. Mr. Freeman’s daughter, Paulette, is moving the store to a larger location on West Main to accommodate the growing business and online print store.
The 29 North area is also active. Hockensmith referenced the Rio Hill Center, now home to the recently relocated Chandlers Bakery, a family owned business started in 1995 by Carolyn Chandler Mucherino, who moved here from Connecticut. Another long time family owned business, The Great Frame Up, also relocated to Rio Hill, where they now offer an even better selection of frames and improved lighting.
When it comes to retail, “Barracks leads the pack,” Hockensmith said. He described this center’s location as “magical,” with a good mix of tenants. He gave as an example FedEx Kinkos, which recently decided to “stay put” at Barracks Road. “They could save money by moving, but they wanted to stay in this location,” Hockensmith said.
There is also activity from out of town businesses looking to locate in Charlottesville, Amato explained. “They recognize that Charlottesville is a place people want to both move to and visit.” If they are doing well elsewhere, they expect to do well here as well, she added.
Steve Melton, who manages properties for Virginia Land Company, described the rental market as “decent.” His company is constructing a new office building, Luxor 3, in Pantops. They have just poured the footings for this 20,000 square foot building with 18,000 square feet of rental space. Their tenants are often professionals, such as the psychiatrist who recently leased an office from them.
Pantops is also home to the new Pantops Plaza. Melton’s company sold the land to the developer of this new 10,500 square foot center at the Abbey and Rolkin Roads intersection. Scheduled to open in 2015, it will feature the first Starbucks in our area that has a drive-thru window. The center will also house a Chipotle Mexican Grill and a Jersey Mike’s Subs.
Across Route 250 from State Farm Boulevard, plans proceed for the new Chick-Fil-A in the location that was once Aunt Sarah’s. Melton explained that his company owns the adjacent piece of property and worked with the developers to provide the land necessary for the easements they required to move forward with this project.
Virginia Land Company also manages properties on 29 North at Hollymead, where they both lease and sell condos. Recently Melton leased space there for a new Montessori School to an individual who has plans to open several more such schools in the area. Another new tenant is a car catalog company thath chose the office at Hollymead for its phone and administrative center.
The new 5th Street Station on the south side is also coming along, Amato said. While Wegmans, the anchor tenant, receives much of the attention, the center will have many more stores and restaurants. Look for familiar names such as Starbucks, PetSmart, Panera Bread, The Hair Cuttery, GNC, NTelos and Mattress Warehouse. Proposals are also in from Hallmark, Marshalls and Ross, while Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Field and Stream are good possibilities, according to the most current Leasing Plan from the developer.
Further afield, in Nelson County, Traeger Brothers Coffee recently opened a new roasting facility at the Rockfish Community Center. The facility sells roasted beans and coffee by the cup. Customers can enjoy the views from the adjacent Rockfish Lounge while they sip their organic, fair trade brew.
Rumor has it that Nelson residents also will soon be enjoying an Internet café adjacent to the Blue Ridge Pig.
An active commercial market is good news for all of us reflecting investors’ confidence in a strong economy. Stay tuned for more updates about what to expect in 2015.
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.