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Agents: Vacant sites near mall get suitors

Citizen Staff Writer



The recently vacated Mervyns, Circuit City and Linens ‘n Things stores on East Broadway shouldn’t remain empty for long, even with the dire economic climate, local commercial real estate experts said.

All three could have tenants in place by the end of the year or some time in 2010, representatives for all three properties said.

“There is pent-up up demand,” said Nancy McClure, vice president at CB Richard Ellis, which represents the Mervyns and Circuit City properties, both at Broadway and Craycroft Road. “We have deals on the table.”

Linens ‘n Things closed at the end of October, Circuit City at the end of December and Mervyns at the end of February. Circuit City had occupied its building since it was built in 1973; Mervyns had occupied its spot since 1990, and Linens ‘n Things moved into a new building in summer 2003 that replaced the El Dorado Theater.

How soon the three sites contain new stores depends on finalizing deals, the city’s permitting process and construction to make the buildings ready for new tenants, McClure said.

Retailers are starting to scope out their post-recession strategies, said Paul Schloss, principal at Bourn Partners, which represent the Linens ‘n Things site across from Park Place.

“There is some activity (with Linens ‘n Things),” Schloss said. “This is early in the absorption cycle. Park Place will be early in the absorption cycle. That’s the low hanging fruit.”

All three fall within the Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District, which means a sliver of the sales tax generated there funds downtown revitalization. Park Place supplies about two-thirds of Rio Nuevo tax increment financing.

The recession has slashed TIF revenue from $16 million in 2006 to $8.6 million this year, Rio Nuevo director Greg Shelko said.

Shelko said the Mervyns-Circuit City-Linens collapse is lessened by the recent arrivals of Office Depot and Radio Shack at El Con Mall, which in recent years also added a Home Depot, Target, Outback Steakhouse and In-N-Out Burgers.

McClure said, “I can tell you with conversations with the city, they are motivated to work with the property owners to get those buildings back into business.”

McClure said the Mervyns and Circuit City buildings are attracting interest from medical services and schools, which have taken to moving into retail environments across the country. Non-retail uses intrigue McClure, but she leans toward retail.

“Retailers, that would be our No. 1 preference,” said McClure, adding that other uses would require zoning changes. “Right now the emphasis is to keep the retail use.”

She said the Park Place and Tucson Mall trade areas are the most sought after areas in the region and both have largely trumped the recession. Even the three closed stores performed well but fell victim to corporate collapses.

“There is still commerce being done in our community,” McClure said. “We are not over-retailed. As long as current retailers are doing well, we’re going to see other retailers want to get into it in Tucson.”

Agents: Closed East Broadway stores could have new tenants this year

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