Real estate trends point towards recovery in office and retail markets

Real estate in central Arkansas’ retail and office markets seem to be positioned for a revival in the coming months after almost two years of struggling through the pandemic.

Workers left their office desks in the spring of 2020, and the retail sector was walloped by shutdowns and wary shoppers who stayed away in favor of going online for goods and clothing. Both real estate sectors were decimated as the pandemic lingered, and the office market remains cloudy, with work from home a popular option that many employers are supporting today.

Real estate activity in central Arkansas in the second quarter “saw more office and retail transactions come through than in previous quarters, signaling a potential comeback,” Colliers of Arkansas reports in its quarterly analysis of market trends.

Some interesting trends are developing in Little Rock’s office market in the first wave of post-Covid lease renewals, with some companies maintaining a hybrid work environment while small companies are expanding into more space.

Owner-occupied offices were picking up in the quarter with the sale of two buildings at Westlake Corporate Park, located between Kanis and Bowman Roads and Interstate-430, and the sale of downtown high-rises, the Bank of America tower and Regions Center, both on Capitol Avenue.

Colliers reports the “retail industry (is) getting stronger – particularly restaurants – with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.” As evidence, the report points to the sale of the Riverdale Center on Cantrell Road and Breckenridge Village on Rodney Parham Road, both transactions in May. Arkansas investors purchased the shopping centers and have plans for significant investments to revitalize the properties, which were developed in the 1980s.

“Re-developments such as these signal a renewed interest in retail and should help with the higher vacancy rates at both shopping centers,” Colliers said.

Another shopping center from that same era, Pavilion in the Park, was sold last week to longtime commercial real estate developer John Flake.

Although Colliers indicates trends point to more growth, vacancy rates in office and retail both increased in the quarter. Retail jumped up a full percentage point from 13.2% in the first quarter to 14.2% last quarter. Office vacancies were up just a bit, moving up from 14.1% in the first three months of the year to 14.3% last quarter.

The industrial real estate sector, which has registered strong results for several quarters, remains the highlight of the market. Colliers notes all the most significant leases finalized in the second quarter were in the industrial sector.

“Industrial space continues to fill up and is now beginning to be hard to find,” the report said. “As a result, several speculative buildings are in play, with most of these in the East Little Rock and North Little Rock submarkets.”

SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT

The Arkansas Small Business Technology and Development Center is holding in-person and virtual events throughout August to support and promote the development of small businesses across Arkansas.

In-person events begin Tuesday in Arkadelphia with a session for small businesses to meet key lenders in the area. A workshop on small business loans will be held Wednesday in Russellville, followed by a session providing marketing tips on Thursday in Piggott. Other sessions highlighting services available to small businesses will be conducted in Jonesboro, Fort Smith, Russellville and Ozark later in the month.

Virtual events also begin Tuesday with a session on how businesses can gain visibility by using Google search and maps. Other sessions will offer tips and information on gaining research grants, starting a business and the key building blocks for successful businesses.

A calendar of events is available at: http://asbtdc.org/asbtdc-events

STARTUP WEEKENDS

The Little Rock Venture Center and Startup Junkie of Fayetteville are partnering to host Startup Weekends beginning Aug. 26. The sessions provide 54 hours of training and tools to help entrepreneurs learn how to work and build a startup business.

The weekends will be creative and collaborative sessions that include mentors, investors, business co-founders and sponsors to show entrepreneurs how to get more done faster. Sessions will offer tips and insight on pitching, creating a business model and marketing initiatives among other topics.

The first weekend will be Aug. 26-28 in Fayetteville at 1 E. Center St., beginning that Friday at 6:30 pm and ending at 9 pm Sunday. A similar session will be held for central Arkansas entrepreneurs Nov. 11-13 at 417 Main St. in Little Rock.

More information is available at venturecenter.co or startupjunkie.org.

BACKING WOMEN BUSINESSES

Ten businesses owned by Black women have been selected to participate in the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas’ next economic mobility hub cohort. This third cohort increases the foundation’s grants to $150,000 dedicated to businesses owned by Black women since the program began in 2020.

The hub is a statewide initiative that supports Black entrepreneurs from across the state through a six-month program that provides support services, training and resources, including $5,000 in unrestricted grant funds.

“With the launch of our third cohort, the WFA will continue our commitment to provide resources and technical assistance to women business owners in an effort to promote economic mobility and shrink the wealth gap,” said Kara Wilkins, who coordinates hub activities.

Participants in the third hub include: Kanesha Adams of Bearapy in Pine Bluff; Melanie Battles with Scholars for the Soul: An Educational Solutions Firm in Bryant; Akissi Brooks of Ambitious Girls Inc. in Sherwood; Janette Cross of JValenciaACTS and Whitney Dobbins of Girly Girls Mobile Spa and More, both in North Little Rock; LaTasha Moore of Tasha Teaches Spanish, Quinnyatta Mumford with Mumford and Associates, Brittany Roy of Sweet Stuffed and Whitney Spencer of CROWN Salon Studio, all in Little Rock; and Ashia Shelton with Ari’s Glow Candle Co. in Brinkley.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at [email protected] or at (501) 378-3567.

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