Does Carytown have a vacancy problem?

carytowninsideHeading east along Carytown, for every 10 to 15 occupied buildings there’s a vacant one with a placard inviting you to call a commercial real estate broker.

Richmond BizSense did an unofficial count of the store fronts in Carytown: 142 occupied buildings, 22 vacant buildings. That makes for a total of 164 buildings, 22 of which are vacant. According to my trusty calculator, which I can’t seem to do without, that’s roughly a 13% vacancy rate. And according to a retail report published quarterly by Thalhimer, that’s higher than every single submarket in Richmond. (figures from the first quarter)

In Short Pump, the vacancy rate is 4.1%. Staples Mill is nearly the same, at 4.2%, while Regency holds a rate of just 3.1%. Broad Street and Willow Lawn are higher, at 8.0% and 8.2%, respectively, but that’s still a full five percentage points off of Carytown’s numbers.

Mayoral candidate Paul Goldman thinks the answer is to turn the strip into a pedestrian-only thoroughfare, a la the downtown mall in Charlottesville. Goldman’s raised objections from commuters and business owners, who rely mostly on customers who drive.

Carytown has long had lots of turnover, and some merchants say now is no different.

Raylene Wilkinson, president of the Carytown Merchants Association and owner of Raylene’s Pennyrich (which sells and professionally fits bras and foundation garments), told the Times-Dispatch ( two weeks ago that the number of store vacancies is not excessive. She said that most of these vacancies are short-lived, with new businesses moving quickly to take open space.

And Francis Daniel, owner of Mrs. Marshall’s Carytown Café, said the same.

“There’s always turnover. That’s the one thing about this area. It doesn’t alarm me, because people are always going in,” and filling up the vacant buildings,” Daniel said.

She said that businesses will always be buying space in Carytown because of its history and its vibe: “It’s still the coolest shopping district around.”

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