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'Retail Apocalypse' leaves many Rochester buildings empty

In today’s "Retail Apocalypse," with chain stores and franchise restaurants closing many locations, commercial real estate space is a wide open frontier awaiting buyers or tenants.

Ground Round, which opened near the Rochester International Event Center in 2012, closed Tuesday.
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Some consider space the final frontier.

However, space can also be a challenge to fill.

In today’s "Retail Apocalypse," with chain stores and franchise restaurants closing many locations, commercial real estate space is a wide open frontier awaiting buyers or tenants.

A canyon of commercial space opened up in Rochester in 2018 and 2019, with about 500,000 square left vacant in former stores and restaurants.

Kmart, two ShopKo stores and a Ground Round restaurant are the latest casualties in Rochester.


For owners and Realtors, it’s a daunting sight to look at a dark 45,000-square-foot former Toys R Us store or even the 5,000-square-foot Ground Round building.

Property manager Blair Meek, of Professional Management Inc., says the owners of all these empty buildings have something in their favor.

"The good thing, compared to other places in the region, is you are in Rochester. It’s a viable market anchored by Mayo Clinic," he said. "You might have to wait for a few years for the right tenant, but one will show up."

If an owner doesn’t have the financial wherewithal or patience to wait for the right business, Big Boxes have something else in their favor. They are simply big, Meek said.

"It’s hard to put your hands on six- to eight-acre chunks of land these days," he said.

Having a several-acre footprint with a big building and an even bigger parking lot means developers looking to build housing or hotels might be interested, he said.

Waiting for a big tenant or selling off to a developer are the only options for many of these sites.

Bucky Beeman, a Rochester commercial Realtor and a partner in Realty Growth Inc, sees potential in both the 5,000-square-foot restaurants and the 90,000-square-foot stores.


"I think the restaurants will fill first. There’s demand for those spaces. We’ve had enquiries for the Bakers Squares," he said.

A billboard by the empty south Perkins restaurant is proclaiming that it will re-open, even though the company is not confirming anything yet.

Perkins Communication Manager Vivian Brooks is cautiously saying,"We remain very optimistic about returning to the market shortly."

The big retail spaces like the soon-to-close Shopko stores present a different problem.

"There’s not a lot of 90,000-square-foot users out there," Beeman said. "Nationwide, we’re going to definitively see new uses going into some of these Big Boxes — like churches, indoor playgrounds and trampoline parks."

Beeman anticipates some of the bigger buildings will be "demised" or divided up into smaller spaces for multiple users.

Overall, he sees the same advantage that Meek does when it comes to Rochester real estate.

"Rochester tends to be a pretty strong town for decent-sized retailers to come in and try the market," said Beeman. "I think there are several other retailers that want to try the market to see if it makes sense."


Some of the high-profile stores and restaurants now empty or soon to be empty in Rochester, and the square footage in each:

Ex-Kmart, 201 Ninth St SE, 121,844-square-feet.

Shopko South, 2810 US 63 South, 90,499-square-feet.

Shopko North, 3708 US 63 North, 90,499-square-feet.

Ex-Herberger's, 1201 12th St. SW, 91,400-square-feet.

Ex-Gander Mountain, 3470 55th St. NW, 77,000-square-feet.

Ex-Dick's Sporting Goods, 4603 Maine Ave. SE, 50,000-square-feet.

Ex-Toys R Us, 808 Apache Lane SW, 45,628-square-feet.

Ex-Perkins North, 432 16 Ave. NW, 6,476-square-feet.

Ex-Perkins South, 181 South Broadway, 5,556-square-feet.

Ex-Bakers Square South, 819 Apache Lane SW, 5,200-square-feet.

Ex-Bakers Square North, 3539 22 Ave. NW, 5,300-square-feet.

Ex-Ground Round, 7386 Airport View Drive SW, 5,000-square-feet.

Total vacant space:Approximately 594,000 square feet

Related Topics: REAL ESTATE
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