Commercial Realtors: Don’t let empty storefronts scare you

National chains closing presents business opportunities for locals

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When a store closes, people are often afraid it will become an abandoned eyesore, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“When you see a store closed, don’t think of it as a negative thing,” said Will Chadwick, vice president of Elifin Realty. “Think of it as a door open for a new idea, new concept. Maybe it’s an opportunity for a local entrepreneur that just now is being enough to pay rent and grow their production.”

Payless announced by the end of February, all 3,600 of its stores will be closed, which will leave one store on Florida Boulevard and several more around town empty.

Commercial real estate experts over at Elifin Realty say the thing that sets selling commercial space apart from anything else is it can be re-imagined for local owners.

“There’s a type of user for every community and every corner,” Chadwick said. “What we’re focused on is trying to find somebody that’s excited about going in an area that wants to serve that community and they want to make it work.”

He says this week alone, the company has met with five entrepreneurs looking to grow their concepts.

Take the development along Government Street for example. It was once a road less traveled and now, it’s turning into the place to be. Mathew Laborde, president of the realty group, says in the last two years, property values have almost doubled along Government Street.

“We have 150 listing around town,” Laborde added. “And out of all of them, I think we may get the most calls on this building right here.”

Laborde says one store along Government has been repurposed two or three times, from a tire store to a tent shop. It’s now in the planning stages of being rezoned to become a bar.

Turning that hidden property into a gem takes a new vision and cooperation from leaders of East Baton Rouge Parish. The realtor says developing new concepts is about planting a seed and hoping new ideas come out.

“Shoes are shoes, but think about the difference between a corporate back store and the local mom and pop shop that is just trying to cater to that community,” Chadwick said.

As for Florida Boulevard and its retail space, these experts say don't count them out on redevelopment.

“The same thing can happen on Plank Road, can happen with Florida Boulevard, can happen with any street in time, any area of town,” Laborde said. “We just have to focus and say as a community, we want to spend our time, our resources there and we want to make this a city that we all want to live in.”

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