Demand for commercial space in Bellingham increases in the third quarter


Guests enjoy pizza and other meals at the Sliced ​​Family Eatery at the Bellis Fair Mall on Tuesday, October 5 in Bellingham.

The Bellingham Herald

While businesses have been hit by the latest wave of COVID-19 cases in the summer and early fall, so far this has not resulted in an increase in empty spaces in Bellingham.

Demand for retail spaces such as stores and restaurants actually increased in the third quarter, according to a new report by Ryan A. Martin, co-owner and broker at Pacific Continental Realty in Bellingham.

Retailing has been surprisingly strong given the challenges of the pandemic, according to the report. The vacancy rate for Bellingham’s 8.3 million square feet of retail space in the third quarter was 3.7%, down slightly from 3.9% in the second quarter.

The average asking price for rental space was $ 18.81 per square foot, up from $ 18.50 in the second quarter. For retail space in Bellingham, the rental price rate has generally not increased or decreased significantly over the past decade, Martin said in an email.

According to a report by real estate firm Colliers, the national retail vacancy rate was 5% at the end of 2020 and is expected to reach 5.6% in 2021. The average price per square foot for the national commercial space is expected to be $ 20.90 in 2021..

The Bellis Fair district, which has suffered from the closure of the US land border for non-essential travel since March 2020, filled a few spaces in the third quarter with the arrival of the Sliced ​​restaurant in the former Boston space, as well as the Spirit Seasonal Store. Halloween, which occupies 12,000 square feet in the former DSW shoe store.

“As the holiday season approaches, we expect retail occupancy rates to increase as seasonal holiday stores begin to open,” said Martin.

9Esprit Halloween_Sterling_10.5.21.jpg
A customer walks into the Spirit Halloween store at the Bellis Fair Mall on Tuesday, October 5 in Bellingham. Warren sterling The Bellingham Herald

Martin expects to see an increase in turnover among restaurants and bars after the holiday shopping season. While there may be closures, he also noted that there are also a lot of potential buyers looking for spaces that have commercial kitchens, especially those with range hoods already in place. Oven hoods, especially for restaurants, can be expensive to install.

Restaurant / bar turnover at the start of 2022 could depend on what happens next with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Typically, bars and restaurants in Bellingham have better income during the holiday season, so they might see a little boost depending on consumer confidence in restaurants and take-out,” Martin said in an email.

With a significant number of workers still working from home, the office vacancy rate fell from 3.8% to 4.1% between the second and third quarters, according to the report. Industrial space remains very tight, with a vacancy rate of less than 1% in the third quarter.

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Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, employment and port redevelopment are some of the topics he covers.

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