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Experts see decline in vacant Bend businesses


Driving around Bend, you may notice a number of vacant businesses. NewsChannel 21 did some digging Wednesday to find out just how many there are and how that can impact the community.

Experts say most of the vacant businesses are located in downtown Bend or on the west side of town, though one will soon be opening up on the north end, as Shopko closes its Bend store (and all the rest as well).

Compass Commercial Real Estate puts out a yearly report showing the percentage of vacant businesses in Bend. When you look at the numbers in the beginning of 2018 compared to the end of the year, there’s actually a decline across office, retail and industrial business spaces.

Officials said when you look at today’s numbers, compared to during the recession, there’s been an even steeper drop. Experts estimate 22 percent of business spaces were vacant then.

” The picture today couldn’t be more dramatic, as far as having too little space to occupy, ” said Roger Lee, CEO of Economic Development for Central Oregon. ” Businesses that need to find space to grow into or businesses that are just starting up are really competing with everybody else in town. ”

Patrick Kesgard , a partner with Compass Commercial Real Estate, said there are isolated buildings that have been vacant for longer than normal.

One example is the former McGrath’s Fish House at the Bend River Promenade, which shut down in late 2016.

Kesgard said a shortage of interested tenants is not the problem. Rather, the property owner is financially strong and wants to be particular in their search for the next buyer.

S, for the businesses that are not doing as well in Bend right now, what might be the reason?

” Sometimes their model is old, their business model, and they haven’t updated it, ” Kesgard said. ” A lot of times, you go back over the last 20 years, the theory was, ‘If I double the size of my store, I’ll double my business.’ That is not correct or accurate. Online buying, Amazon, all of these online sites are taking a significant hit out of certain retails. ”

But Lee said the lack of vacant business spaces in Bend can have a negative impact on the community.

” From our perspective, what it boils down to is jobs, ” Lee said. ” If you don’t have any vacant spaces for companies to either expand into or new companies to locate into, the jobs that follow those are not coming into the community. ”

To solve that problem, Lee said he’s been working with developers and builders to create more space. He hopes to eventually bump up the vacancy rates to a preferred level of 5 or 6 percent.

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