Downtown Traverse City short on space for incoming businesses

For nearly 20 business owners finding a place to set up shop in downtown Traverse City means waiting because there is no space available.

For nearly 20 business owners finding a place to set up shop in downtown Traverse City means waiting because there is no space available. Downtown leaders say the demand is at a ten year high.

Downtown leaders say it's a good problem to have and empty spaces could soon be a construction site to add more square footage to downtown.

â??You always need to have those new things, those new businesses, those new places to go to keep it fresh and exciting,â?? said Rob Bacigalupi, Downtown Development Authority Executive Director.

Finding a way into the downtown Traverse City marketplace is proving to be a challenge for nearly 20 businesses.

â??Anybody that is looking to locate a business downtown or even those who are already downtown but want to expand have a very difficult time finding space.â??

Aside from the newly opened Franklin restaurant, downtown retail space hasn't been added in several years.

The demand has risen after a short slump during the 2008 recession.

â??It actually speaks to how attractive and viable downtown is for shoppers alreadyâ?¦ people already want to shop here and therefore the shops want to be here.â??

Right now the vacancy rate is at 3.2 percent. Downtown leaders say they prefer to be anywhere from four to eight percent.

â??The fact that we're on the low side of the sweet spot is not such a bad thing. It means there's a lot of demand downtown and hopefully the private sector will respond and build more space.â??

That's exactly what developers are working on. A proposed project on Park Street offering retail space and public bathrooms is expected to begin later this year.

â??We respond to demand. It's no longer the case where you build it and they will come. You wait until you have demand and then you build the project accordingly,â?? said Jerry Snowden, Snowden Development President.

Snowden says as they meet the demand for space.... their goal is to keep a small-town feel.

â??Because of the investment that people are making it's creating even more demand and I think it's all going in the right direction.â??

Downtown leaders say some businesses waiting to move downtown are choosing to move to other areas near downtown such as Eighth Street or West Front Street.

In addition to the proposed project on Park Street, work is underway in the Warehouse District that will add more space for downtown Traverse City businesses. Plans are also in the works to renovate the Chase Bank building and fill in the empty space next to it with a mixed use building.