MIAMI TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WDTN) – As big box blight becomes a growing problem due to several recent store closures across the Miami Valley, local leaders say they’re working with property owners to bring new business to the area.
According to Matthew Arnovitz, a local commercial real estate broker, vacant big box stores could eventually become almost anything, ranging from other retail options to residential development or logistics and distribution centers.
Just in the past year, the Miami Valley has lost Elder-Beerman, Toys R Us and soon Sears – just to name a few. That’s on top of other stores like Kmart that already closed all of their locations in the area.
The old Riverside Kmart – the Miami Valley’s last Kmart to shut down – closed more than a year ago.
“It’s a little depressing because I remember when I lived here as a child, I actually was close enough to be able to walk there,” said Jennifer Fox, who lives in Riverside.
According to Mark Carpenter, Riverside city manager, no one is lined up to move in yet, but there has been some interest in the site.
“I don’t believe that we’ve had a good fit of either the company that’s selling the building or something that fits what the community needs,” Carpenter said.
A major retail hub in the Miami Valley, the Dayton Mall area has inevitably seen its share of big box closures.
“It’s sad seeing a lot of the buildings empty all over,” said Candize Consiglio, a Centerville resident. “I live over by the Dayton Mall area and we get more and more every week that it sounds like they’re closing.”
According to Chris Snyder, Miami Township community development director, local leaders knew this day would come.
This map shows empty stores across the Miami Valley. Is one near you?
“It was a concern years ago,” Snyder said.
Officials in Miami Township spent that time preparing, creating a Dayton Mall Area Master Plan and rebranding the area as the Miami Crossing District in late 2015, Snyder said. They’ve also spent that time working with property owners, he added.
“We’re trying to bring all of the different shopping center owners together to look at what are the best uses for their sites,” Snyder said. “How can they complement each other as opposed to just having everything be retail.”
Creating more residential and office space is an option being considered, Snyder said.
“It is certainly a challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity,” he said.
Opportunity is also in mind in Beavercreek, where being proactive has shown results, according to Pete Landrum, city manager. The Sears set to close there will become a home goods store and family entertainment center, officials previously announced.
“Things are changing,” Landrum said. “Can’t just do big box anymore. Can’t just do clothing.”
Another success in Beavercreek – roughly six months after the former Beavercreek Kmart closed, an At Home store opened.
Landrum said he believes working with property owners and having close proximity to Wright State University and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base have helped attract new businesses.
“We try to set through our land use plan, thoroughfare plan, all of our master planning that we try to set up the types of conditions that businesses can succeed,” he explained.
But it’s also about thinking outside the box – or in this case – the big box.
“Some of them may convert to storage,” said Matthew Arnovitz, who has been a commercial real estate broker for 35 years. “Some of them may convert to residential.”
Right now, there’s high demand for industrial space, and some big box properties may become logistics and distribution centers or call centers, said Arnovitz, who has worked on several big box properties across the Miami Valley.
But overall, these sites could become just about anything, he said.
“There’s grocery store users and different people that I work with that are looking in the market, and most of them are interested,” Arnovitz said. “Whenever there’s opportunity, they want to explore it.”
But for now, residents know they’ll have to see several storefronts sitting empty.
“It would be nice if there could be other retail or restaurants,” Jennifer Fox said.
“It’s pointless just to have it vacant, to have it empty,” said Chastity Barton, a Riverside resident, of the former Kmart in town.
For vacancies without tenants lined up, Arnovitz expects it could take as little as a year or as long as several years for those spaces to be occupied again.