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Monday, April 13, 2009

Dead retail space becoming more prevalent, but we’re still building

Let me stand on my soapbox and loudly proclaim what millions have done before me over the past year and say, “It’s a sign of the times”. Sure, it might not be the most original statement you’ve heard in awhile, but perhaps it truly does apply.

Western Hamilton county is seeing an increase in the reduction of commercial real estate, and yes that’s a borderline double-negative. It seems like everywhere you look, in addition to the depressing little white or yellow slips posted on the front doors or windows of vacant homes, you’re seeing more and more empty retail space.

No, it’s not just the little guy, it’s the big guys too. From the K-Mart in Forest Park, to the Dillard’s in Colerain, and finally to the most peculiar little area, Glenway Crossing in my neck of the woods over here in Western Hills. This once thriving area, while still bustling with activity from the remaining businesses, is starting to become a little, shall we say, ghostly?

Circuit City, CostPlus WorldMarket, and Steve & Barry’s have all gone the way of businesses past. It is understandable that in this and any economy businesses will fold. Circuit City succumbed to the national rivalry with BestBuy, and ironically, the “thrifty” stores like Steve & Barry’s and CostPlus WorldMarket found it difficult to stay financially afloat. Yeah, I’ll give you that WorldMarket was more of a niche store, but they still had everyday items which I only recently discovered before their demise, such as coffee and olive oil which was amazingly priced considering the quality. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Target took their operations up the road, which seems to be another interesting trend. Despite the vacancies, the real estate in Glenway Crossing doesn’t seem too bad. Businesses like BestBuy, Chipotle, and Panera, as well as WalMart nearby, still draw a lot of people (i.e. money) to the area. Yet new development, including the construction of new buildings, is going on just a few miles up Glenway, where the demographics are really no different.

Western Hills Plaza is seeing new life at Glenway Crossing's expense

Am I missing something here? No, we’re not building “Legacy Places”, but why build new structures when existing real estate sits not too far away? At least these are being built over the sites of older business and parking lots, etc., but c’mon, would it kill to put something, anything, other than more retail along Glenway?

At any rate, instead of whining about something I really have no control over, I’ve decided that it’s my duty, as a resident of the west side of Cincinnati, to at least contribute ideas of how to utilize this space at Glenway Crossing.

I’ll be honest, the plazas are fairly drab, mostly concrete and mortar, and not overly attractive. So, I’ve come up with the following...

Low Security Jail Space: We keep on hearing about talk about a new jail, why not offer up this space as a small jail facility for the low risk criminals, such as petty thieves, peeping toms, and the Madoff family. I mean, who wouldn’t want a jail in their neighborhood when it’s for the good of the community, right?

Small College Campus: Why between the empty plaza space and the two standalone buildings, formerly known as Target and Circuit City, you could have another concrete University and call it NKU North, or “Northerner Kentucky University”, as some of our friends across the river might say.

Black Friday Training Facility: The FBI has had Hogan’s Alley for years, and the military uses fake cities to teach urban warfare tactics. Why not turn it into a site that department stores can rent for day after thanksgiving training? It would also boost the local economy, as a local “mob” would have to be hired to storm the doors of the trainees. Yep. That’s called thinking outside the box folks.

Before I get hate mail about poking fun at Kentuckians, I should point out that I grew up in Kentucky and spent the majority of my life there. By default, that means I’m privileged to perpetuate the stereotype of the Kentucky hillbilly. I should also point out that I know several people from the west side of Cincinnati who pronounce “wolf” as “woof”.

As stated earlier, this is all a sign of the times. Businesses are bound to fail, while others rebuild. Citizens such as myself will find something else to complain about during the Bengals off season, and satirical posts will rise hand in hand with the unemployment rate.


steve-o said...

Good questions to ask. I grew up on the westside and am thoroughly perplexed by the continued construction when there is continued space already empty.

I remember quite well when the Glenway Crossing area was the Swallen's complex. One of the first anchor stores of the Crossing was Service Mechandise, where the Steve and Barry's was located. I'm not sure if it was the location that doomed those businesses, or whether it was their corporations models that went the way of the albatross.

One last note (in the midst of my rambling): NKU could not open up a campus north of the Ohio river because of of accreditation differences. Colleges in Kentucky come under a Southern accreditation, so NKU would have to get Northern accreditation, which is way too costly. But I wonder why Miami U couldn't put a campus down here.

Randy Simes said...

The biggest mistake that was made was the development of that Target, Circuit City and PepBoys space. This took away precious rail right-of-way through the heart of the westside that could have eventually linked the westside with the rest of the city via light rail.

The westside's main problem with retail and commercial investment is the terrible accessibility to the area. The westside demographics while good, are not enough to be able to single-handily support the types of jobs and businesses that the westside residents want. Better connection to the outside world would expand those demographic boundaries and make the westside more appealing for higher quality investment.

Jenny Kay said...

I've heard of turning big empty retail spaces into mixed housing/apartment buildings. It would be neat to see on the west side.

Nick Sweeney said...

Just what we need: more cheaply-made, crass-looking big box shells. They should make this area into a unique place for the West Side. We don't need another Panera or Target. Check out this book:

If they play their cards right, they may be able to make it to this site:

Nick Sweeney said...

sorry, it's:

Greg Meckstroth said...

This is the problem with the unlimited sprawl model that development often takes. Look at Colerain Avenue, Glenway, Hamilton, etc. etc. etc. just in the Cincinnati region. Every few years, the same stores abandon their 'old' locations for bigger, better, newer digs just up the street. This unfettered growth continues and continues into oblivion.

There is an alternative. If we contain this growth into a specific geographic area, a sense of place and associated demand can be created, leading to densification. This can be seen in virtually all of Cincinnati's NBDs as well as Kenwood (even though it lacks true sense of place characteristics, it is clearly densifying because it is geographically contained.)

For Glenway, stricter regulations and an actual plan is necessary.

Chris Ridenour said...

Are those suggestions serious? Black Friday Training Facility? This post seemed pointless at first but that and the Low Security Jail Space suggestion just dropped it over the edge to idiotic. Target and many of the other places moved up the street because the owners are giving them incentives to move.

The goal is to get the higher volume stores to "Western Hills Plaza" to drive traffic to all stores in the area. Glenway Crossing hasn't attempted to compete for a long time and its starting to show. The only thing that anyone from outside of Delhi and Bridgetown would drive to is Best Buy. And after working there for quite some time, you're better off going to Kenwood or Eastgate unless you want to share the store with some interesting customers.

The problem is not lack of ideas, it is lack of incentive. Why would I start my business in the middle of a dying complex when I can start my business in an upcoming area with better management and customers? Those are the questions that need to be answered.

Adam Hawkins said...

Not to argue about the demographics, but aren't the "interesting" customers in Western Hills Plaza the same as those in Glenway Crossing?

I'll buy that Target moved for economic reasons, but if you're looking at getting away from encroaching crime no move is far enough. A store just a few doors down from Target was robbed at gunpoint just a few weeks ago.

The economic incentives for a store like Target to move would obviously be great though, because the relocation for any business, especially one of that size, is by no means a small financial undertaking.

And if anybody was wondering, yes those suggestions were sarcastic.

Chris Ridenour said...

Glad to hear it was sarcasm - but watch out in future posts. It wasn't obvious.

And after working at the Western Hills Plaza Gamestop for some time, I also know that yes, you do get the same demographics. That being said, there are renovations being done at the plaza.

And my thought was more along the lines of elsewhere in Cincinnati rather than elsewhere in Western Hills. If I would put a place in Western Hills, I would choose the Plaza over Glenway Crossing. If it was Crossing vs. building somewhere else, I would build somewhere else.

It all comes down to this, why would I put my store in Glenway Crossing?

Lewis said...

I've heard rumors that Chipotle is moving up the street as well, to where the old Dodge dealer was. And who knows what's going to happen with Western Bowl…

Adam Hawkins said...

I've also heard rumors that there will be a completely new Chipotle there, as well as a Panera in the Western Bowl location.

That seems like oversaturation, but that's what I heard through the grapevine.

Randy Simes said...

Oversaturation seems to be the name of the game for Chipotle. I've heard them referred to as the Starbucks of burrito places.

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