The number of vacant commercial spaces around the area is slowly dwindling.
Dick Smith Chrysler Jeep
136 Jefferson Davis Hwy.Vacated: Approximately 2009Price: $2 millionSquare footage: 50,000Teresa's Mexican Restaurant1935 Whiskey RoadVacated: 2012Price: $1.2 millionSquare footage: 8,300Blockbuster1016 Pine Log RoadVacated: 2012Price: Lease negotiation underwaySquare footage: 6,400 Ryan's Buffet1953 Whiskey RoadVacated: 2012Price: approximately valued at $1.6 million Square footage: 10,682Kalmia Plaza Belk1600 Richland AvenueVacated: around 1989 when it moved to the mall -- Veracity Payment Solutions is located in the back portion of this space.Price: negotiableSquare footage: 26,623Food Lion Shopping Center353 Beaufort St N.E.Vacated: 2008Price: UnknownSquare footage: 35,550
At least that's the consensus of local Realtors who work to fill empty buildings vacated by businesses that have relocated or closed.
Though some of those buildings have been vacant for years, many have become occupied in the last year, which not only fills a void in the various shopping centers but creates more jobs and shopping opportunities for Aikenites.
2012 and 2013 – years of big change
A lot has happened in the last year.
The City of Aiken took an old bank building that stood empty for several years on Laurens Street and converted it into its new administration and finance office. The initial plan was to add on to the existing municipal building, but City officials found it to be more fiscally sound to repurpose the large downtown structure.
The space that once held Stein Mart in Hitchcock Plaza was demolished, and an Academy Sports is currently under construction. Stein Mart closed in 2009, and Academy Sports announced that it was coming to Aiken last year.
Aiken Bowl, which also closed in 2009, is now Strikehouse Bowl after it was purchased and refurbished this year.
South Park Shopping Center's store front was completely redone and now houses a Fresh Market. Several other spaces are ready for business.
Local Realtors said this is a sign of an improving economy.
Dean Newman, a commercial Realtor with Meybohm, said he's seen an influx of interest in Aiken by restaurants. Which Wich and Shane's Rib Shack are both opening in Shoppes of Brookhaven off Whiskey Road. He said that a contract is underway with the old Teresa's restaurant that closed in 2012; although, he cannot disclose the client at this time.
Clay Bolton, another local commercial Realtor, is working to fill up Mitchell Shopping Center, which has at least five vacant spaces, according to the R.B. Bolton & Associates website. Bolton said that, lately, he's getting calls daily about availability, and he hopes to see the shopping center full by next year.
Bolton said over the last year or so, Dollar General moved down a few suites to a larger location at the shopping center that nearly doubled the store's size. Little Caesar's, Furniture Outlet & Mattresses and Pink Pineapple & Co. have also located within that shopping center.
Bolton said that Fresh Market, which is in close proximity to Mitchell Shopping Center, has most likely helped draw interest to that area. He added the expansion of Bridgestone and retiree dollars could also be contributing to the recent boom in commercial activity.
Bolton feels that more spaces are going to fill up around the city as entrepreneurs feel more comfortable making an investment.
“These things take time,” Bolton said. “People are still a little hesitant to roll out big bucks right now, but you're going to see that change.”
Kalmia Plaza off Richland Avenue also has several vacancies, including the big box store which once housed Belk – Veracity Payment Solutions is occupying a small portion of that building. There have been rumblings that the majority of those spaces could soon be taken but calls to Ziff Properties' leasing manager handling that property were not returned by press time.
Each Realtor has his or her own style of marketing.
Commercial Realtor Ken Holmes is attempting to lease out the Blockbuster building located on a busy corner of Pine Log Road that has been vacant for about a year. Holmes said he has had a lot of interest in the property and may have a business housed there very soon.
Holmes placed a large sign in front of the property with “For Lease” in big, white block lettering with a red background. His phone number and square footage is also inscribed on the sign, which is large enough for drivers to see from the road.
“Ninety percent of sales come from the sign,” Holmes said.
Holmes said posting on commercial real estate websites like Loopnet.com is also helpful in getting the word out.
Newman said word-of-mouth goes a long way, as well as the Internet. Participating in trade shows has also helped amp up interest by reaching different companies.
Though it seems as if more vacant commercial spaces are coming back to life with new businesses, there are still a few buildings sitting and some deteriorating due to neglect.
The status of the old Food Lion on Beaufort Street that closed in about 2006 after the York Street Reid's opened is a bit of a mystery. No “for sale” or lease signs are up, and very little information about this property is posted online.
The windows of the vacant grocery store are boarded up and a church is taking up, a small portion of the abandoned shopping center.
Dick Smith Chrysler Jeep on Jefferson Davis Highway shuttered in 2009. Grass is growing through the cracks of the asphalt in the parking lot and the signs of the old business are still up. The vacant business sits below the Sam's Club that is currently under construction.
Sam's Club will hopefully be a catalyst for future business in that area.
Calls to the listing agent of the old Dick Smith building were not returned before press time.
But, despite those commercial properties that are still sitting empty, local Realtors like Newman are feeling optimistic.
“These spaces are starting to fill up,” Newman said. “I'm thinking that over the next year or two, some of the vacant spaces that have been vacant for years will be occupied.”