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City's retail vacancies wane

Observers see arrival of new businesses as a sign of improving economy.

August 17, 2011|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • The old Sport Chalet Sportland building in La Cañada is under construction and will be replaced with a new Sprouts market. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer)
The old Sport Chalet Sportland building in La Cañada…

Foothill Boulevard is filling up again. After a few years of recession-induced vacancies along the boulevard, La Cañada Flintridge is welcoming the arrival of new businesses in 2011 that are bringing the Foothill vacancy rate down. With the recently opened MD Appliances, and with Sprouts Farmers Market and Jane’s Cakes opening later this year, the vacancy rate on Foothill is dropping.

According to Robert Stanley, the city’s director of community development, of the almost 300 units of non-residential property of Foothill Boulevard, the current vacancy rate has dropped below 10%. But when including properties that are in the permitting process or already are permitted but not completed, like the Sprouts market, the rate drops to around 6%.

A 6% vacancy rate would put La Cañada Flintridge in line with, or ahead of, the vacancy rates in neighboring cities such as Pasadena.

According to Eric Duyshart, Pasadena’s economic development manager, Pasadena officially tracks only office-space vacancy, which is at approximately 12%. But an unofficial estimate for retail vacancy right now is between 6% and 7%. Duyshart said that in healthier market conditions, retail vacancy usually sits at 4%.

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“We have a couple kind of clusters of vacancies we don’t like to see, but overall it’s still relatively healthy,” said Duyshart.

Pat Anderson, president and chief executive of the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce, said that the arrival of new businesses in the city is welcome after the recent economic troubles.

“Things have either been on a hold or they’ve been declining in 2010,” said Anderson. “But in 2011 we’ve seen it level off a little bit, and in fact, starting to pick up just a little bit.”

Anderson said that in addition to the overall impact of the slowly improving economy, La Cañada Flintridge is primed to welcome new business.

“Businesses really want to be here,” said Anderson. “If they can find the right space at the right price, then they’re probably feeling that now might be a good time to move.”

Doug Sanders, president of Sprouts Farmers Markets, said that La Cañada Flintridge is such an attractive location that Sprouts was looking to move there even before its merger with Henry’s markets, which purchased the former home of Sport Chalet in 2009.

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