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Central Park is feeling empty page 2
Vacancy rate creeps up at Central Park as more retailers go out of business


Date published: 2/8/2009

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Cunningham said commercial rents are dropping as much as 25 percent to 35 percent in the area as landlords renegotiate leases with existing tenants and entice new ones. Rents in Central Park--along with Stafford Marketplace and Cosner's Corner--are among the highest in the region, according to the data.

Simeck noted that the timeline of Central Park's comeback depends on how quickly the economy turns and whether retailers can get financing to open stores and buy inventory.

That comeback can't come quickly enough for Fredericksburg officials. Earlier this decade, Central Park was the main engine driving double-digit percentage growth in the city's sales-tax revenue. Now the city is facing double-digit declines in year-over-year sales tax revenue, which is challenging the budget.

Vacancy rates may rise in the short term at Central Park and other area centers, said Jud Honaker, president of commercial development for the Silver Cos. He noted that Central Park now has retail competition that it never had before in the area. He said Central Park is "clearly as stressed as it has ever been."

But Honaker thinks Central Park will bounce back in a big way. He noted that a major part of the problem is luck of the draw, as the shopping center happened to have many failed national retailers. He thinks two new developments at Celebrate Virginia South will give Central Park "its edge back."

Wegmans is opening a grocery store there in June that should draw ample traffic. Honaker believes that Kalahari Resorts is going to open in Celebrate Virginia despite troubles obtaining financing. "It's a matter of when, not if," he said about the massive planned water park and resort hotel.

Cunningham noted that Central Park has businesses--including Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and soon Wegmans--that are nowhere else in the area and choose their sites carefully. Partly for that reason, he's also bullish long-term.

"They're opening there for a reason," Cunningham said. "Central Park will continue to stand the test of time."

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com


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Area vacancy rates

Here are estimated vacancy rates at some of the area's biggest shopping centers. Data are courtesy of Thalhimer/Cushman & Wakefield.

Central Park: 10.5 percent

Cosner's Corner: 5.8 percent

Stafford Marketplace: 3.3 percent

Southpoint I and II: 3.3 percent

Downtown Fredericksburg*: 3.2 percent

Doc Stone Commons: 1.9 percent

Spotsylvania Towne Centre: 1.1 percent

*Caroline Street between Lafayette and Lewis streets, William Street from Prince Edward to Sophia