The office of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate has been tapped to fill the many vacant stores at the Waldbaum’s shopping center at Long Beach Plaza on East Park Avenue.
While some might look at the center as indicative of the commercial vacancy landscape in the city, brokers at Prudential Douglas said Long Beach is not nearly as bleak compared to some surrounding communities.
Waldbaum’s A&P, the landlord at Long Beach Plaza, made Prudential Douglas the exclusive listing agent about six months ago, according to Bob Stark, the contact broker for the center. Stark indicated that in today’s real estate climate, Waldbaum’s A&P has had to compromise on its asking price in order to draw serious interest from prospective renters.
“The rent has been reduced first from $27.50 per square foot, to $25 per square foot,” Stark said. “Now this week, we just got approval to lower it to $24 per square. We are trying to be very competitive.”
Starks said the agency is negotiating with one local and one national outfit to fill some of the vacancies, but he who declined to comment on the specific businesses or spaces, which range in size from 950 to 3,500 square feet.
The reduced price-per-square creates a range in rent from $22,000 to $84,000 per month, not including taxes and common area maintenance fees.According to Joe Ponte, another broker at Prudential Douglas, these fixed prices and the price-per-square range can present a stumbling block to mom and pop retailers.
“Most shopping centers have more restrictions than independent stores,” Ponte said. “Sometimes a mom and pop doesn’t meet the criteria. [Renting in a center] requires more security, greater insurance for underwriters, and maintenance of the shopping mall. Whereas in an independent store you usually shovel your own space.”
Ponte noted that due to these restrictions, developers often target national franchises to fill the space. And Stark did reveal that the agency is trying to lure franchises such as Denny’s, IHOP, Friendly’s, or Panera Bread, especially considering the center can accommodate parking for those businesses.
One critic of the shopping center, resident Richard Boodman, said the area is somewhat blighted by loiterers who create the appearance of an unsafe place to shop.
“There’s a lot of low-lifes there,” Boodman said. “You got drunks, you got gamblers. It should be the Times Square of Long Beach, but it’s a matter of people not being comfortable shopping because they’re concerned about their safety.”
A spokesperson for the Long Beach Police Department said they haven’t gotten any recent complaints from residents about the center, and Stark said the area has been spruced up a bit, including a new paving and stripe job in the parking lot and increased security.
Ponte points to the coming months as a time of hope for the center to rejuvenate, stating that April is often a buzzing time to rent.
“Some people who were thinking about opening a store, come March or April, they’ll say ‘I’m gonna go with the business in April, because we got the whole summer,” Ponte said. “I’ve been doing Long Beach real estate since 1971. It’s another cycle, just like the housing market.”
Stark said the agency is open to offers from retailers of all sizes, and will entertain suggestions and leads from the community.