Since a Ross Dress for Less outlet opened last fall in the Manito Shopping Center on Spokane's South Hill, along with separate improvements completed by another of the center's tenants, several surrounding businesses have experienced a notable increase in traffic and sales.
The Manito Shopping Center is located on the South Hill near the southeast corner of 29th Avenue and Grand Boulevard, and in the last year it has been host to several tenant changes.
In addition to the debut of the large retail outlet there owned by Ross Stores Inc., a Pleasanton, Calif.-based retail chain that sells apparel, shoes, accessories, and house wares at discounted prices, the shopping center also welcomed a new restaurant and bar, Manito Tap House.
Another of the center's tenants, a Super 1 Foods grocery store, also underwent an extensive remodel.
"It's still a work in progress," says John Bennett, president of Black Realty Management Inc., the center's manager, noting that two spaces in the center totaling nearly 13,000 square feet remain available for lease.
Interest in the vacant spots, though is percolating, he says.
The Manito Shopping Center includes a total of about 123,000 square feet of floor space, not counting five separately owned buildings elsewhere on its block. Tenants of those stand-alone buildings include Washington Trust Bank, Chase Bank, Spokane Teachers Credit Union, and a restaurant called Vintages @ 611.
The commercial center is owned by Manito Shopping Center Associates LLC, and originally was developed in the late 1960s.
The Ross Dress for Less store occupies about 28,000 square feet of a total 40,000-square-foot space that most recently was home to a Gottschalks Inc. department store, which vacated the shopping center more than two years ago.
That space is situated above a lower level of the shopping center, which sits on a sloping site. A two-lane ramp passes under the remodeled entryway to Ross and connects the center's upper and lower parking lots, and a stairwell also near Ross's entrance provides pedestrian access between the two levels.
Bennett says the larger of the two remaining spaces available for lease is a 12,000-square-foot portion of the former Gottschalks store and is located on the west side of the Ross store. A smaller, separate 680-square-foot space that also was part of the old department store also is available and is located on the east side of Ross.
Bennett says inquiries from potential retail tenants into the larger space have remained strong throughout the last year.
"The South Hill continues to have a low retail vacancy rate of 3 percent, so there is a strong demand for the market, and we are anxious to complete a transaction which will be the pinnacle of the overall redevelopment (at Manito)," he says.
Black Realty Management is a division of Spokane-based commercial real estate firm NAI Black., Bennett says that NAI Black was in talks last spring with a prospective tenant who wanted to lease the remaining portion of the Gottschalks space, and a lease agreement was close to being finalized. The interested party opted to expand one of its other retail stores here instead of opening an additional outlet there, but Bennett says he can't disclose that company's name because it still in discussions about the vacant Manito space.
"We do have other prospects for that space, but they are in the early stages of discussion," he adds.
As those talks continue, the recent leasing activity and tenant upgrades at the retail center have attracted an increasing number of patrons to several businesses there, those business's owners say.
The Manito Tap House opened at the shopping center in early last September and about a month before Ross's grand opening. Its owner, Patrick McPherson, says since then, the restaurant and bar has been full nearly every night.
"Business has been good, but sales have been pretty flat because we have been at capacity since we opened," McPherson says.
McPherson's establishment is located in a 3,200-square-foot leased space that formerly had been occupied by the Pear Tree Inn. It's situated in Manito Shopping Center's lower level and directly below the Ross outlet.
Nearby the Manito Tap House is the restaurant Vintages @ 611, and owner Tana Rekofke says that three-year-old business has seen an increase in patrons since some of the upgrades at the shopping center have been completed.
Vintages @ 611 is located in a stand-alone building in the northwest corner of the shopping center and occupies a 3,800-square-foot space, taking up about half of a building it shares with a U.S. Bank branch.
"We have noticed more activity and people coming from other areas than our neighborhood," Rekofke says. "It's been really good."
She estimates that the restaurant has seen its sales increase by around 20 percent during the last several months. Rekofke also says she added a couple of new employees last fall to accommodate the holiday shopping surge and the influx in shoppers at the center due to Ross's mid-fall opening.
Another change she's since made is opening Vintages @ 611 on Mondays for lunch and dinner, a day that the restaurant previously had been closed.
"The activity is there, and lunch is great," Rekofke says. "Ross brings a lot of people to the area and even with Super 1 being redone and cleaner, they are seeing new business too," she adds.
Just after tenant improvement work for the Ross store started last year, Spokane-based Rosauers Supermarkets Inc. began work on a $3.5 million interior-and-exterior remodeling project at the 52,500-square-foot Super 1 Foods it owns at the east end of the Manito center.
Rosauers' President Jeff Philipps says the work there was finished in January, and since then, sales and customer traffic at that store have been significantly higher.
"People are excited about the changes to the store and the new offerings there," Philipps says. "I think between our remodel and the addition of Ross, there is a significant increase in traffic into the center and certainly into our store."
Philipps says that Super 1 store has also hired a few more employees to accommodate the increased number of shoppers there since it completed its remodel.
He says the remodel included the expansion of the store's meat, seafood, natural food, and produce departments, as well as adding more seating to the deli area. The layout of the sales floor also was reconfigured to make the store's aisles parallel with the checkout stands, he says.
The Super 1 Foods store remodel happened to coincide with the upgrades to the Ross space. Philipps says Rosauers had been planning the updates to its store there for some time as part of a company plan to remodel its stores across the Inland Northwest. He says that Rosauers did, however, coordinate the paint colors for the Super 1 store to complement the look at Ross. Both stores have aqua blue paint accenting the facades.
In addition to the retail space currently available for lease at Manito Shopping Center, an additional 4,700 square feet of space will open up in June when a Washington State Liquor Control Board-owned liquor and wine store there closes as a result of the legislation passed by voters last fall to privatize liquor sales.
He says there now is one prospective tenant for a portion of the liquor store space, but that he can't disclose that venture's name.
Bennett says that in addition to the center's tenants that debuted late last year, a locally-owned Allstate Insurance Co. agency, called The Hodgson Agency, opened last month in a 1,200-square-foot space adjacent to the Manito Tap House.
A Ross Stores representative who could comment on how the new Manito store is performing couldn't be reached before press time.
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