Broker report: Charleston area retail market posts strong numbers in quarter

The new Spectator Hotel would be located at 71 State St. in downtown Charleston (Provided).

By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

If you're looking for something new in town, check out a small-format Walmart, second Dick's Sporting Goods, Nordstrom Rack and high-end national eateries.

Spread around the Charleston area, the big box and smaller scale properties are among the "name" retail places confirmed or believed to be on the way here. The findings are based on a recent quarterly report from NAI Avant commercial real estate company.

"The Charleston retail market showed its strength once again during the second quarter of 2014, continuing on a positive trend," says the report, written by Ruth Marie Embler and Kaitlyn Mills of NAI Avant.

Vacancies declined as a share of all retail space, stores absorbed more territory overall and rental rates climbed 5.6 percent from the first quarter.

According to the NAI Avant commercial specialists, the occupancy and lease rate gains combined with a host of new tenants and first-time developments across the region portray "a market that is not only surviving but thriving."

The Charleston area "continued to gain traction" as a destination point across the globe, driving a booming tourism and hospitality industry, they say.

Among the accolades: Travel + Leisure named Charleston the No. 1 city to visit in the U.S. and Canada and ranked the city second in its top 10 list of "Best Cities in the World Overall."

Embler and Mills agree the Charleston market provides diversity. Visitors and retailers enjoy innumerable perks, they say, such as beaches, culinary treats, golf, "a rich history and a strong economy."

Among the spotlighted geographic sectors:

. Downtown Charleston. Retail space "continues to be a hot commodity," the NAI Avant specialists note.

"Buzzworthy" properties include the former Millennium Music Building at King and Calhoun streets. Walgreens will anchor the redevelopment, according to NAI Avant. Chipotle Mexican Grill will take up 3,000 square feet along King Street, and Carolina Ale House - already in Summerville - will open a two-story rooftop restaurant and bar.

Elsewhere on King Street, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams has opened its first South Carolina spot and Vineyard Vines secured a spot to open this fall.

Developments with plans for both retail and office space include Courier Square - home to The Post and Courier - and Midtown. Also, soon after its sale, the historic Cigar Factory underwent the first stages of a $55 million project. Garden & Gun leased 19,700 square feet for office and retail space, and The Indigo Road Restaurant Group proposes a 7,500 square foot parcel for a café and coffee shop.

Meanwhile, a surge in new hotels on the peninsula stems from the rush of tourists visiting the Charleston area.

Three hotels are underway or planned on upper King Street, and work's started on the luxury boutique 41-room Spectator Hotel in the historic district.

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Along with hotels, the peninsula attracts high-end retailers, according to Embler and Mills. Ruth's Chris found a spot downtown to open this fall in the French Quarter Inn at 166 Church Street and will provide food service for the inn and the Spectator Hotel.

. Mount Pleasant. "Bowman Place" will be the name of a redevelopment of the closed 87,000-square-foot Kmart. "Although tenants have not yet been finalized, word of a Dick's Sporting Goods and Nordstrom Rack have surfaced," the NAI Avant agents say.

. North Charleston. Gander Mountain landed the largest lease signing of the quarter, Embler and Mills note. The outdoor retail outfitter will locate in the Promenade at Northwoods shopping plaza, taking up 40,325 square feet between Once Upon A Child and Anna's Linens at 7800 Rivers Avenue.

Marshalls had held the space before relocating to the Corner at Wescott shopping center.

. Summerville. Walmart plans to build a Neighborhood Market store at Dorchester and Bacon's Bridge roads. It would be the first of Walmart's "small-format" stores to appear in the Charleston area, according to NAI Avant.

The commercial brokers say the Charleston retail market "gained traction and showed sustained growth this quarter." Such expansion should continue "in the quarters to come." Throughout the Charleston submarkets, the area holds a "top-of-mind" place among national real estate reps, asset managers and real estate funds, they say.

Headquartered in Columbia with an office in Charleston, NAI Avant counts more than 65 professionals.

For more visit www.naiavant.com or contact David Grubbs, managing principal of the Charleston office at 843-814-6111 or dgrubbs@naiavant.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.