The recently announced plan by Macy’s Inc. to shutter its big store in downtown Spokane within the next couple of months is justifiably stirring some concerns among adjacent retailers and others about the negative ripple effect that closure could have on the city core’s retail scene.
The other side of that coin, also voiced by some downtown supporters in a story in this issue of the Journal, is that Macy’s exodus will open the door for some potential exciting new uses in the complex it occupies, located on the north side of Main Avenue between Wall and Howard streets.
We share the view of Susan Connolly Carmody, owner of Jigsaw Boutique, a women’s clothing store at 601 W. Main, who told our reporter: “Ultimately redevelopment is a part of all great cities. I’m excited to see what’s to come.”
To be sure, the store’s closure is sad to see and will disrupt some people’s lives. In a press release about its planned closure of 40 stores as part of a series of cost-cutting measures, Macy’s said 94 people were employed at the downtown Spokane location. Those employees and their families, as well as the customers who have continued to frequent the store, have contributed to the city core’s energy.
That workforce and customer volume, though, no doubt have shrunken from what they were years ago, when the store even included a popular second-floor restaurant and coffee shop, and before Internet-based sales had begun to sap many retail stores of their vitality.
Also posing a potential challenge to downtown is refilling the sheer amount of space that Macy’s, as the core’s largest retailer and its last full-service department store, will be vacating. At 374,000 square feet, it’s roughly half as much floor space as the Spokane Valley Mall occupies, and it very well could take years for new tenants to absorb all of that space.
The building currently is underutilized, though. Macy’s said it actively uses seven floors, with the remaining four reserved for storage. Over the years, it has leased out some of the upper-floor space in the building to other tenants. All of that begs the question of whether upper-floor space wouldn’t be better suited, in the long run, to living units—in line with a recent trend toward more downtown housing.
Also worth noting, as pointed out by commercial real estate specialists here, is that the building is dated and badly in need of a remodel that will give it a fresh look. Hopefully, that will be one of the top priorities of the property’s next owner, since Macy’s plans to put it up for sale soon.
As for retail, shoppers probably can count on continuing to be able to purchase merchandise on at least the building’s lower floors, fueled partly by River Park Square expansion activity just to the west, where Urban Outfitters store currently is under construction.
Macy’s, and its predecessor, the Bon Marche, have been big contributors to downtown vitality for decades, but the future beckons. We’re optimistic about what it has in store.
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