By Kevin Kelley
Fairview Park’s Lorain Road business district is beset with vacant storefronts at least in part because other successful retail centers are located nearby, a Northeast Ohio real estate broker said.
Joseph Khouri of CBRE, a global commercial real estate services and investment firm, was the guest speaker at the March 29 meeting of Forward Fairview Park, a group aiming to encourage redevelopment along Lorain Road.
The observation that nearby retail centers, such as Great Northern Mall, Westgate Shopping Center and Westwood Town Center, offer larger stores with better access and parking than the older storefronts in downtown Fairview Park is not particularly new.
Despite the competition the Lorain Road corridor faces, Khouri did not suggest that Fairview Park close the door on efforts to spur small-store retail development there. He suggested the city and Forward Fairview Park can reduce the number of vacant storefronts through persistent efforts.
Financial incentives, such as tax abatement, can help spur redevelopment, Khouri said. Fairview Park has a longstanding law permitting a real estate abatement of seven years on new residential and commercial construction.
“You’ve got to tackle the big vacancies first,” Khouri said. One significant Lorain Road vacancy, the former Stamper’s Grill Pub, the listing of which Khouri is handling personally for CBRE, may soon be filled. However, Khouri declined to mention the name of the interested party.
Corner lots are the most valuable to developers and retailers, Khouri said. One way to overcome the district’s deficiencies of small lots/storefronts is for owners to assemble several lots in a package for sale to a developer, he said. Such collaboration among property owners often takes place when one or more are looking to sell in connection with plans to retire, he added.
Khouri said he believed that Fairview Centre, where Goldfish Swim School and Dollar Tree recently opened, is moving in the right direction in filling its vacancies.
“Giant Eagle is really important,” he said. “Food is the best anchor to have.”
While many retail chains have been hurt by the growing popularity of online shopping, grocery store sales and traffic remain strong, Khouri said, as most people still shop there for fresh food.
Improvements to streetscapes and curb appeal, such as those pursued by the city, are helpful, Khouri said. But large-scale investment in outdoor space associated with retail, as exemplified by lifestyles centers like Crocker Park, are very expensive to create, he added.
The overall retail market, both in Northeast Ohio and across the U.S., has very nearly recovered to where it was before the Great Recession, Khouri said.
Forward Fairview Park is offering a free workshop for Lorain Road businesses on how to set up a professional website, use social media and get listed by Google.
The two-part workshop will take place at the Fairview Park Branch Library from 6 to 9 p.m. April 18 and April 25 (both Mondays). Registration is required and can be accomplished online at www.fairviewpark.org/ffp. Forward Fairview Park member KC McKenna will lead the workshop.