Arbor Village Retail is Still Mostly Empty, and That's Okay

There have been many comments online here on nextMLT and other sites such as MTLnews concerning the lack of occupied retail space at Arbor Village. These comments have picked back up recently with the news that the developer of Arbor Village, AFCO & Sons, has purchased and plans to develop the property across the street. 

Steve Stone, General Manager of AFCO & Sons, recently left a comment on MLTnews responding to some of the other comments concerning the projects:

I would suggest everyone look at other cities such as Redmond in regards to the commercial spaces being mostly vacant. In Redmond for example the first 2 or 3 buildings had very few businesses in the but once a corridor or “new town center” was getting more dense then businesses filled them up. This is one example but consistent with Bothell and other cities as well. Also the parking isn’t an issue for potential renters of the commercial space. In the next 18 months I think you will see more of the commercial space filled up. The city has done a lot to make future projects have more street parking so it won’t have the same parking issue’s as the first building. I think people need to understand that when the first building is done it is a vision, once it is completed then the next projects get better because they have seen one building done and fix any issues that arose. I hope this helps explain some of the concerns.
— Steve Stone, AFCO & Sons

One of the main reasons that many existing residents in Mountlake Terrace have supported the Town Center vision is that many people would love more services and businesses in our City. Those same people are now concerned because the retail space in the first mixed-use project, Arbor Village, is still empty after a couple of years. This is an understandable concern. One of the many benefits of having more people living and working in closer proximity is that it makes businesses much more viable in that area without having to resort to acres of surface parking. We have to remember that this is a process, though, and that a single mixed-use building does not make a Town Center. Changes like this take time and, as Steve has pointed out, having some empty retail space for a while is consistent with how other neighborhoods have gone through this change as well. 

So while the perception of lack of retail parking (note this is very different than the reality) may be an easy excuse for some to point to, it is not the reason the retail space in Arbor Village has not been filled. That's not to say the perception of available parking is not important, it certainly is, but it's not the reason we have empty storefronts right now. 

Each new development project in the neighborhood, whether it's townhomes, apartments, ADU's, or cottage housing, is going to bring more new neighbors and help make those retail spots more attractive to businesses.

Dustin DeKoekkoek1 Comment