Follow-up Q&A with Ashland’s director of planning

ashlandinsideAn Ashland official is excited about new developments like Bass Pro and a proposed outlet center in Hanover County.

Zach Robbins, Acting Director for the Department of Planning & Community Development in the Town of Ashland, had a few thoughts about a story BizSense ran last week on Ashland’s retail scene.

BizSense: What does the addition of new stores like Bass Pro Shop, Gander Mountain, and new shopping centers like the upcoming Wigwam Crossing, mean for Ashland and Hanover in terms of retail growth?

Zach Robbins: To assist us with our Comprehensive Planning efforts, we have retained a consultant to provide recommendations to the Town for how to secure economic growth. While these new developments (Bass Pro, Gander, Wigwam) are not located in the Ashland town limits — they are in unincorporated Hanover County — some of the more destination-driven retailers, such as Bass Pro, or the proposed outlet mall, are anticipated to increase the demand for our hotels and restaurants. The Town also believes that these new developments will cause our retail mix to adjust and reinvent itself; however, this is a normal business occurrence when competition comes in.

BizSense: We counted vacancies at 10 shopping centers between the Randolph-Macon campus and Virginia Center Commons, and we came up with 21 vacancies out of 200 total storefronts, giving Ashland a vacancy rate of 10%. Does this seem appropriate? What does this mean for the area?

Robbins: We are aware that vacancies have increased over the last year, however, this is likely just due to the turn the economy has made. We believe that our business climate is performing similarly to the other commercial areas in the region.

BizSense: How has Ashland changed over the past decade? The addition of Wal-Mart was criticized by Ashland residents before it came here, but it appears to have had a positive effect, with new stores popping up throughout the town with more frequency in the past few years. Is Ashland growing into a retail destination?

Robbins: Ashland is going to continue to have a greater retail presence. Lowe’s, the town’s second big box store, was approved last year without near the amount of controversy that surrounded the Wal-Mart proposal. The town is concerned with its current shopping centers, and we are mindful not to add too much retail space too quickly, as there needs to be sufficient population density around to support it. I would also like to add that Wal-Mart has been very successful in our community.

Alec Depcrynski covers retail, commercial real estate and technology for BizSense. Please email story tips to [email protected]

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