PORTLAND Downtown construction continues to push up retail vacancy rates as prospective retailers wait for completion of the disruptive activity. Vacancy rates downtown rose to 7.3% in the first quarter of this year, up from 5.1% the same time last year, according to Portland-based real estate firm Norris, Beggs & Simpson. A sluggish economy and tight credit for new construction projects also are to blame, says J.J. Unger, a broker with the company. “We have definitely seen the activity slow down,” says Unger. “People are sitting on the sidelines.”
One example is the 15,000-square-foot space that had housed a Kitchen Kaboodle. It’s been vacant since last summer, stymied by construction of the new transit mall on SW Sixth Avenue, which began in January 2007. The vacancy rate in fourth quarter 2006 was 4.4%, according to Norris, Beggs., and has since steadily climbed. “Everybody is waiting for it to be finished,” says Unger. The project is scheduled for completion in spring 2009.
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