Big shoes to fill

The number of vacant big-box retail buildings in the Reno area appears to be as high as it ever has been.

Retail experts say the spaces are likely to fill but some may take a while.

The vacancies range from three ShopKo stores a total of about 300,000 square feet of retail space to the 68,000-square feet on Kietzke Lane that formerly housed Winan's Furniture to smaller spaces such as the 28,000-square-foot south Reno building that was, until recently, home to Good Guys.

And Wal-Mart plans to shutter its 129,500-square-foot store at Northtowne Crossing as it opens new stores at Spanish Springs and in the North Valleys.

The speed with which new tenants take the old space depends on the buildings' location.

"I think you're going to see some of those buildings fill up sooner than later," says Chris Waizmann, a retail specialist with Trammell Crow Co. in Reno.

The former ShopKo building near North McCarran Boulevard and Mae Anne Avenue in northwest Reno, for instance, probably won't stay vacant long."There's a lot of interest in that building. There's great demographics in the area," says Waizmann.

Roxanne Stevenson, who handles retail leasing for Colliers International in Reno, says the former ShopKo location at Neil and South Virginia streets also is a likely beneficiary of good neighborhood demographics.

A San Francisco real estate company, Retail West, purchased the two buildings from ShopKo.

The difficulty of finding new tenants for vacant big box stores is directly proportional to their size and their location, says Gary Johnson, a senior vice president for retail properties at Alliance Commercial Real Estate Services.

Smaller entrants in the big-box arena say, the 28,000-square-foot location previously occupied by the Good Guys at 4979 S, Virginia Lane usually find tenants fairly quickly.

So do buildings with good demographics such as the ShopKo location in northwest Reno.

But if the buildings are big, or the neighborhood has about all the retail it can support, retail brokers face a challenge.

Johnson guesses that the former ShopKo location at Neil and Virginia might be too big for the market to swallow in one chunk and instead might be broken into two stores one in the range of 65,000 square feet, the other around 28,000 square feet.

A 94,000-square-foot store at 2260 Oddie Blvd., left vacant by ShopKo in mid-2004, is likely to remain vacant longer because substantial new retail development sprouted a short distance away on McCarran.

Even if a retailer can be found who needs a big space in one of the vacant locations itself a tough trick older buildings may need substantial work for new tenants, Johnson says.

That work, combined with the time to get inventory for a new store, means some of the big box space will be vacant for a year or more even if everything goes right, says Ken Mattison, who handles retail leasing for Grubb &?Ellis NCG in Reno.

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