Some area firms expanding, taking advantage of low prices or are looking to relocate

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Rick Marti, right, job superintendent with W.H. Bass Inc., fills in the dirt around the site of the new Chick-fil-A on William Street in Cape Girardeau on Tuesday. (Kristin Eberts)

After remaining flat for the past two years, Cape Girardeau County's commercial real estate market is trending up.

Some businesses are expanding to meet demand, others are taking advantage of low prices or looking to locate in a new market.

"People who've been looking at the market for some time are deciding now is the time to pull the trigger," said Tom Kelsey, commercial real estate broker with Lorimont Place, Ltd.

It is difficult to specifically track the growth in the Cape Girardeau area's real estate sector, Kelsey said.

In larger cities, analysts study occupancy rates and property values, he said. While there is a Commercial Multiple Listing Service used by some local real estate agents, it isn't reliable for market tracking because it doesn't include property leases. Many sales are also not reported to protect business confidentiality.

Still, Kelsey said, the area market started gaining momentum late last year after remaining dormant in 2008 and 2009.

In nearly every part of town, new commercial construction is underway.

Roadwork continues at the Isle of Capri casino site on North Main Street, a new Chick-fil-A restaurant is under construction on William Street, and a six-unit strip center off Kingshighway, LaCroix Market, is nearly finished. Work will begin later this summer on Menards off Bloomfield Road at Siemers Drive, according to Tim Morgan, director of inspection services for the city of Cape Girardeau. Final plans for the development are expected to be submitted to the city in the next few weeks, he said.

While construction may be the most visible aspect, more existing commercial real estate is being sold and leased, too.

"This is a buyers' and tenants' market. There are some good buys out there," Kelsey said.

The movement in the area isn't confined to just one part of town, Kelsey said he's seeing buildings sold and leased from downtown across Kingshighway and on the city's west side depending on individual businesses' needs.

In 2011, some buildings empty for years have been purchased and renovated. Blair Best Box moved into the former Thorngate Ltd. building on Independence Street in January. First Missouri State Bank is renovating the vacant bank building on Kingshighway.

"It's definitely on the uptick," said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Girardeau Area Magnet. Robinson said much of the growth is due to companies looking to do more.

"They've had some pent-up demand that they're starting to act on," Robinson said. "We will see some developments as a result of that relatively soon."

Robinson said there has also been a lot of activity in the Jackson area.

Brian Gerau, executive director of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, said that in the last three months he's seen an increase in inquiries from businesses about the Jackson area.

Several businesses have opened in uptown Jackson this year.

"People are just more selective on where and when they invest it in this economy," Gerau said. "The money is still out there, but people are really analyzing where they want to spend it."

Jeff Maurer, who is involved with developments such as City Centre and Cape West Crossing, said he's also seeing local companies now looking for new opportunities.

At City Centre, Maurer said, he's leased spaces faster than he can build them out this spring. In addition to LeBounce, Cafe Soupe and The Source Yoga, three more businesses will open there later this summer.

But he's not seeing much interest from new retailers or restaurants outside the area considering Cape Girardeau. Kelsey and Robinson said they're having similar experiences.

Local commercial developers are hoping the new $8 million Menards development, bringing with it 150 jobs, will attract more businesses. Menards is the nation's third-largest home improvement retailer.

"We've had several requests from Realtors outside the area wanting to know about the timing of the Menards project," Robinson said. "They've got clients that's important to."

SoutheastHEALTH's cancer center, which opened in February, may drive development in that area, Maurer said.


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