A Retail Revival in Eastern Massachusetts
January 22, 2011 : The Patriot Ledger, by Steve Adams
Store Vacancy Rates are Dropping in the Region, Raising Hopes for Plaza Developers
PEMBROKE — Retail vacancy rates are falling across eastern Massachusetts and boosting prospects for new shopping plazas planned for towns such as Pembroke and Sharon.
“That's a pretty dramatic drop and a lot of that is because the vacant (big) boxes have been absorbed, which eats up the vacant square-footage in a hurry,” Sheehan said.
Patriot Place in Foxboro has the region's highest vacancy rate at 19 percent, according to KeyPoint Partners research. Vacancies include a former Circuit City space and a group of storefronts that have not been filled since the shopping center opened in 2007. In contrast, Hingham's Derby Street Shoppes currently has no vacant storefronts following the December opening of the Athenaeum skateboard shop.
Construction of major retail malls came to a virtual halt in most places following the economic meltdown in 2008, but remained active south of Boston. Dedham's Legacy Place was one of just two regional shopping centers to open in the U.S. in 2009, while Braintree's South Shore Plaza added a new 241,000-square-foot wing anchored by a Nordstrom department store in 2010 and continues to fill it with tenants.
A Brockton developer is in the midst of redeveloping Pembroke Plaza on Route 14 into an 80,000-square-foot shopping center anchored by a Stop & Shop supermarket and a CVS pharmacy. The CVS will open at the end of January, said developer Jeffrey Coffman, president of Coffman Realty.
Demolition of the existing strip mall is scheduled for late winter, with the existing tenants moving to a new 24,000-square-foot building in early April, Coffman said. Construction of the Stop & Shop will begin in early summer.
While lending for retail developments has slowed to a trickle since 2008, Pembroke Plaza was able to obtain financing from Rockland Trust because it had a full roster of tenants to fill the spaces, Coffman said.
The developers used $12.8 million in bonds issued by MassDevelopment for land acquisition, site preparation and development costs to help finance the project. Rockland Trust purchased the bonds and lent the money to Pembroke Plaza Limited Partnership.
“In our case, we had not only the cash resources, but also the willing and able lender,” Coffman said.
The project is expected to create up to 175 new jobs.
Boston-based developer Congress Group is moving forward with plans for the region's newest lifestyle center, a 400,000-square-foot development called Sharon Commons.
The project was approved in 2007 but sat on the shelf while the developer struggled to attract tenants in a contracting retail environment.
The 450,000-square-foot project has attracted Target and BJ's Wholesale Club as anchor tenants. Atlantic Retail Properties of Boston is now marketing the remaining storefronts to retailers with the goal of a spring 2012 grand opening.
Representatives of Atlantic Retail Properties referred inquiries to the Congress Group, which did not return messages this week.
Since the completion of a three-story addition anchored by Nordstrom last spring, Braintree's South Shore Plaza has been filling storefronts in phases.
A California Pizza Kitchen opens on Monday, mall manager Judy Tullius said. Women's apparel chain Arden B and children's clothing store 77 Kids are scheduled to open in April.
Legacy Place, the Dedham lifestyle center that opened in August 2009, is close to full occupancy. Soon-to-open tenants include Sephora and Chocolate Therapy in February, Coldwater Creek in April and J. Crew this summer, said David Fleming, spokesman for owner W/S Development of Newton.
Foxboro's Patriot Place, the lifestyle center built in 2007 by the owners of the New England Patriots, is adding three new tenants early in 2011, spokesman Jeff Cornoyer said. Fashion accessories boutique Charming Charlie, interactive adventure arcade 20,000 Leagues and Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill all are scheduled to open in late winter or early spring.
With fierce competition for long-term tenants, Hanover Mall has signed several temporary tenants to fill vacant spaces in the mall building. General Manager Ed Callahan said negotiations with a potential tenant for the vacant Circuit City building are continuing. The outbuilding has been vacant since 2009 when the electronics chain declared bankruptcy.
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