That’s what the data in a Retail Market Survey report released Tuesday suggest has been transpiring in downtown Fort Wayne, where the retail vacancy rate dropped to 60.5 percent, down from 72.2 percent last June.
The renewed interest in the heart of the city, already visible to many, was documented in the report by The Zacher Company.
That interest helped reduce Fort Wayne’s overall retail vacancy rate to 14.1 percent from a 15.8 percent vacancy rate a year ago, the report said.
“The big retail story in Fort Wayne is that downtown is experiencing a revival not seen in several decades,” the Zacher report said.
Every quadrant in the city saw an increase in occupancy, the report said. Today, there are 12 vacant retail “big boxes” of 20,000 square feet or greater, totaling 676,000 square feet. That compares with 14 big box vacancies totaling 799,000 square feet in June 2015.
Downtown retail openings noted in the report included The Golden Restaurant, Lake City Bank, DeBrand Fine Chocolates, YMCA and The Find in the Ash Skyline Plaza, Domino’s Pizza and Freshii at The Harrison, and the City Exchange Shops on Wayne Street.
Retail rents vary depending on the type of space and other factors, so the increased interest in downtown by itself does not dictate what tenants will pay, Steven K. Zacher of Zacher Co. said in a telephone interview.
“DeBrand, The Golden, Lake City Bank, those are all brand new, so they could be paying way on the upper end,” Zacher said.
Retailers leasing space in buildings 30, 40 or 50 years old would likely find more moderate pricing. Downtown rental rates, based on 23 available spaces noted in Zacher’s report, range from $3 to $20 per square foot, with a median of $10.98.
Interest in downtown will continue with residential developments including Cityscape Flats, Superior Lofts, Randall Lofts and Skyline Tower.
And retail is also expected to increase, the report added, because of a 10-year plan that the chamber alliance, Greater Fort Wayne Inc., is promoting. That plan includes more development along the riverfront and the GE Broadway campus.