The retail vacancy rate in central New Jersey hit a 10-year-high last year, but empty small businesses have offset the big box store highs this year, according to real-estate brokers R.J. Brunelli & Co., LLC.
"Improvements on Routes 1 and 18 were countered by rising vacancies along Routes 9 and 35," a news release said.
A study which evaluated shopping centers and freestanding buildings larger than 2,000 square feet excluded malls and centers which are under construction.
"Even as a still-too-high big-box inventory continues to shrink, that positive trend is being countered by growing numbers of smaller-store vacancies up and down
the region’s corridors," said Richard J. Brunelli, president.
The study pointed to two big wins for the Route 9 corridor, filling two empty Pathmark spots with Hobby Lobby in Marlboro and Lowes Express in Wall.
Route 9's 35-mile stretch from Woodbridge to Lakewood has an 8 percent vacancy rate, up from 7 percent last year. Notable big-box stores in Route 9 this year include Tuesday Mornings in Howell and Big Lots and Woodbridge Crossing.
Closures, however, included a large Lowes in Old Bridge and A.C. Moore in Howell. Within the next year, Kmart will also close in Howell.
"Over the last 10 years, the highway’s vacancy factor ranged from a low of 3.6 percent in 2008 to a high of 7.6 percent in 2009," according to a news release.
Sixty-three of the 245 properties reviewed on the corridor had vacancies.
Next year, the anticipated Marlboro Commons will begin opening doors to Whole Foods, Ethan Allen and more in a 100,000 sq. ft. shopping center, where 95 percent of the leases are signed, according to leasing agent R.J. Brunelli.
However, business openings in Woodbridge has recently included the August 2013 opening of Boscov's at the Woodbridge Center Mall, which is the largest department anchor store to open in Central New Jersey in recent years, according to the Mayor's office. Other openings include the 2012 opening of Burlington Coat Factory at Woodbridge Crossing, the Oct. 2012 opening of WaWa on Route 9 in with another WaWa on Route 9 North in the Avenel section of Woodbridge Township coming soon.
Route 18's five-mile stretch of East Brunswick businesses had its vacany rate drop for the third-year, to 11.4 percent from 12.9 percent, according to the news release.
Hibachi Grill moved into a 14,000 square foot property which had been empty after Car-Khuff's Furniture closed.
North Brunswick's former Pathmark remains empty, but R.J. Brunelli & Co., LLC said the 30-mile stretch of road "continues to improve."
Vacancy rates declined for the fifth consecutive year, to 6.7 percent from 7.9 percent.
Big Lots entered the empty Linens 'n' Things site in Woodbridge, but Mandees in North Brunswick shut its doors.
There were vacancies in 29 of the 127 retail sites included in the survey.
The Pathmark Space in Middletown on Route 35 remains empty, adding to the highway's vacancy rate this year, along with Borders on Route 35.
The study revealed small businesses closing took over the progress big-box stores had made on the vacancy rate, on the 25-mile Aberdeen to Brielle stretch. The rate rose to 13 percent from 11.2 percent.
Big box store closures included Fashion Bug in Hazlet, which is now leased by Planet Fitness, and Sears in Eatontown, which closed three locations in the region this year.
“Looking ahead, the Eatontown area could see its biggest surge in new space in years as proposed redevelopments of Fort Monmouth and a site currently occupied by a golf course on Route 36 could potentially add 500,000 square feet of retail in conjunction with new housing, office space, hotels and other uses being considered for the sites,” Brunelli said.
Also in Eatontown, DSW is currently leasing a large space, and the Route 35 vacancy rate was helped by Shop-Rite in Hazlet.