Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 9, 2014

Downtown retail in high demand

TRAVERSE CITY — Pleasanton Bakery owner Jonathan St. Hilaire recognizes the value of a downtown Traverse City retail outlet.

His bakery is anchored at the tourism-friendly Village at Grand Traverse Commons, but downtown Traverse City is the area’s hottest tourist spot, and that prompted St. Hilaire to open the Pleasanton Café at 118 S. Union.

The shop offers Pleasanton’s bakery products, coffee and a quick grab-and-go lunch service that features sandwiches, soups, salads and other items.

“We wanted to definitely be downtown and be in that environment,” St. Hilaire said. “There’s a lot of traffic that comes to the Commons, but a lot that downtown traffic … maybe doesn’t know we are there.

“So when I saw the downtown location for rent, it all made sense,” St. Hilaire said. “It was the right size. The rent was right and I wanted good visibility. It could not have worked out any better.”

Pleasanton’s expansion downtown highlights a fact well-recognized by business leaders: downtown retail remains hot. The sparse number of retail spaces available downtown filled quickly this winter, leading to an all-time low vacancy rate of 1 percent, said Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Rob Bacigalupi.

“The good news is the economy is turning around,” Bacigalupi said. “But the situation is, there is very little space for new merchants or those wanting to move or expand.”

For now, 560,126-square feet of retail space exists in the DDA district, reflecting a modest increase of 4,000-feet from 2012. Recently opened Low Bar under Nine Monks on Union Street and the soon-to-open Rare Bird Brewpub on Lake Avenue account for the new footage.

Bacigalupi said retail space will increase moderately with several developments underway. There are 9,000-feet earmarked for a restaurant in the new Keen Technical Solutions building under construction at Cass and Front streets, as well as a project planned by Socks Construction at Cass and Eighth streets that could add 4,000-feet of retail and office space.

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