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Kmart worsens big box vacancy woes, experts say

  • BIZ-KMART03p-1

    An employee works on the sign at the BIG Kmart store on Navarre Avenue in Oregon on Friday. The store is scheduled to close in January putting nearly 75 employees out of work.

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  • BIZ-KMART03p

    Customers enter the BIG Kmart store on Navarre Ave. in Oregon on Friday. It was announced this week that the store will close in January.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • 1104BigBoxVacancies

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    The Sears store once drew customers to West Toledo.

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    The Andersons General Store in Maumee closed its doors in June.

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When the Oregon Kmart store departs the area retail scene next January, it will join an already crowded list of vacant big box retail sites whose numbers have accelerated rapidly since June.

Since June, two general stores of The Andersons, the Kroger at the Southland Shopping Center, Sears in West Toledo, and Kmart on Alexis Road all have closed. On Thursday, Sears Holding Corp. said it will shut the area’s last Kmart, at 2830 Navarre Ave., as an austerity move to help stem the company’s financial losses.

BIZ-KMART03p-1

An employee works on the sign at the BIG Kmart store on Navarre Avenue in Oregon on Friday. The store is scheduled to close in January putting nearly 75 employees out of work.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Collectively those six properties total 847,000 square feet. “That’ll take years for the market to absorb,” said Pete Shawaker, a commercial Realtor at the Reichle Klein Group.

For perspective, the Shops at Fallen Timbers Mall in Maumee is 1 million square feet. The Town Center at Levis Commons shopping area is 320,000 square feet.

The closest example to what’s taking place now was in 2003 when Spartan Stores Inc. closed its 23 area Food Town stores. Many of the stores had buyers waiting, but 11 did not. When they closed, the vacant market space total grew by 600,000 square feet.

It took over 10 years for those properties to find other uses — such as churches, charter schools, or health clubs — and at least one still is vacant.

In addition, the current list contains two Giant Eagle grocery stores that closed in 2014 and are still empty.

Recently Mr. Shawaker got an indoor trampoline park to lease the former Cub Foods supermarket on Jackman Road, a store that has been vacant since 2000. Considering how long it took for that space to fill, the recent surge in big box vacancies has Mr. Shawaker concerned.

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“I think it’s the most square footage that’s gone vacant in a one-year period in about a decade,” he said.

“In the past we right-sized the supply and demand equation by the marketplace tearing down three of the malls. And then taking some of those vacant Food Towns and Farmer Jack’s supermarkets and converting them to other things like churches and charter schools,” Mr. Shawaker said.

But Toledo’s population is not growing, and retail is changing with more consumers shopping online. Adding to the woes, many big boxes that are going vacant are older designs with low ceilings and features that do not fit the needs of the few big box chains that are financially stable, he said.

Steve Serchuk, a commercial real estate agent with Signature Associates, said there could be a bright side — the properties that have come vacant this year have a chance to be repurposed far quicker than the Food Town stores were.

“There’s actually strong interest in The Andersons in Maumee,” he said. The building was bought in August by two businessmen who hope to lease out the space.

The Andersons on Talmadge Road and the Kmart in Oregon are likely to be torn down and the land reused, Mr. Serchuk said. The city of Oregon has openly talked about acquiring the store on Navarre and turning it into a “Main Street” district for the city.

The Kmart on Alexis could became a rental hall, Mr. Serchuk said. But the Kroger store — which ironically was a Food Town — has a clouded future.

“Southland is a whole different situation. There’s no demand for space and no retail is going to go back in that store there,” Mr. Serchuk said. “Supermarkets are very difficult to convert. They’re difficult because of the plumbing, because of the low ceilings. Southland is going to be challenging.”

Contact Jon Chavez at jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.

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