As more chain retailers shutter stores, pull back on expansion plans or go out of business for good, the owner of Clifton Park Center in Clifton Park, NY, has scuttled its plan to fill vacant anchor space with a single tenant. A 55,000 square foot space once occupied by Steinbach's department store chain has been vacant for eight years.
The owner, DCG Development Co., is no longer holding out for a large retailer. Instead it is chopping up the space to make way for more storefronts. "The market for big boxes is a little soft," said Rick Eaglestone, VP of commercial management for DCG. "Our attitude is, if that is the case, we've had good luck leasing smaller spaces."
The smaller store approach has been integral to DCG's transformation of the center from an enclosed mall to an open air venue. The transformation began two years ago. The mall's previous pedestrian walkway has been razed to create several new storefronts. The center was 100 percent leased by 79 stores over the recent holiday season, compared with just 54 a year earlier. This is the first holiday season it was fully leased since the renovation began.
DCG has submitted preliminary plans to Clifton Park, NY planning officials to split up the Steinbach's space. The developer has not identified the number of storefronts it will create, nor listed any potential new tenants. Among its recent new tenants are small independent retailers or non traditional tenants, such as a FunWorks FunZone and a space shared by Time Warner Cable and Capital News 9. The dearth of even small national retail chains looking to expand, at a time when consumers are clamping down on spending, has limited DCG's leasing options.
The slump in national retail sales, which fell to a 39 year low in November 2008, has forced larger retailers such as Boscov's, Linens 'n Things and Circuit City into bankruptcy court. More chains seem destined to take the same route during this year's first quarter.
Eaglestone said DCG held discussions about leasing the Steinbach's space to some large scale retailers, but their needs conflicted with the mall's. He said demand remains strong for smaller spaces. "You have to give the market what it wants," he said.
Mixed use development is a trend, and DCG has proposed adding a four story hotel at the center. It is seen as a traffic booster for the center's retailers. However, that plan is in the very early stage, according to Eaglestone.
This article was edited from a story in the Schenectady (NY) Gazette.
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