Times, they are changing…The commercial real estate world as we know it has gone from Boom (2000-2006) to Gloom (2008-2011) and now slowly we   are emerging from the darkness.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, and we are seeing it to be more than just a torch.  In the last few months, we have witnessed a minimum of four bidding wars on property and have leased and sold properties that have sat without activity for the past few years.  Leasing activity is up in both the office and retail sectors, and sales are up in the outparcel and medium size land tract market.

While times are changing from an activity stand point, that are not so much in lending and decision making with national and regional retailers.  Financing is still tough, but we have witnessed marked improvement.  The end users is still driving the decision the most in whether or not financing is commencing. Prime sites are being sold where there has been pent up demand. With the rising interest rates, deals are going to get tighter.  There is a very short window to still get the “deals” and the savvy investors are already under contract on many of these properties.

Good times are ahead for our region.  When you drive across the roads of Western North Carolina and see boarded up store fronts and Store Closing signs, we see opportunity.  The most recent article in the Charlotte Observer about the commercial activity in Hickory, NC (link below), points to the list of those who have committed to moving forward with new ventures in our area.

Commercial projects mushroom around Hickory

By Dianne Straley Correspondent
By Dianne Straley
Posted: Friday, May. 03, 2013

Modified: Wednesday, May. 01, 2013

New residential construction remains down in Hickory as the sluggish economy continues, but new commercial developments and remodelings are warming up, building permit numbers show.

From an expansion of the Carmike 14 Cinemas to extra rooms at the Holiday Inn Express, investors are spending money, said city planning director Brian Frazier. “We’ve got a lot going on – a good mix,” Frazier said.

The value of new commercial construction in 2012 more than doubled since 2011, with $18.6 million in projects receiving building permits in the city of Hickory. So far this year, new commercial permits valued at $14.5 million are active, up 23 percent over the first four months of 2012.

Some of the projects are highly visible, replacing large vacant buildings on major thoroughfares. The old Bonita Furniture store, high above the threshold of Hickory’s commercial area on U.S. 321, is now occupied by In Your Home Furnishings.

The short-lived Lime Grill and Tequila Bar on the Catawba River at U.S. 321 will soon be taken over by George’s on the Lake, which is closing what its owners say is its hard-to-find restaurant in Rhodhiss and moving to the landmark location.

Here’s a look at some other projects either recently complete, under way or about to begin:

• The old Simmons hosiery mill at 391 10th Ave. Drive N.E. is being converted to office and storage space.

• Holiday Inn Express on U.S. 70 is adding more rooms.

• Carmike Cinemas is adding a 503-seat theater to allow the showing of IMAX films. The 14-screen complex on Catawba Valley Boulevard is redoing its ticket-buying system and expanding parking.

Two new Dollar General stores are going in, one on Springs Road next to Shells Bar-B-Q and the other on N.C. 127 South in Mountain View, near Food Lion.

• Family Dollar is opening a store on Springs Road opposite Food Lion.

• FedEx Ground plans to expand in the Fairgrove Business Park

• Gateway Conference Center at U.S. 70 and U.S. 321 will be bought by Harvest Church.

• A Chipotle Mexican Grill will replace Panda Express on U.S. 70 east of Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard.

• The old train depot in downtown Hickory is expected to open as a restaurant later this month.

• Jimmy Johns’ will open next to Dunkin’ Donuts in Viewmont on N.C. 127.

• An unnamed chain restaurant plans to open in the old China Garden on U.S. 70 near the mall.

• The Warehouse has received the necessary permits to hold special events. More work must be done to make handicap-accessible restrooms in the building at 18 Second St. S.E. in downtown Hickory.

• Ground has been broken for Longview Elementary School off U.S. 70 in southwest Hickory, as well as for Lenoir-Rhyne University’s new chapel.

• The Lutheran Home is opening a 120-bed building, Trinity Village, on N.C. 127 S in Mountain View.

• Work is continuing on 101 apartments behind Verizon Wireless on 29th Ave. N.W., off N.C. 127 in Viewmont.

Frazier expects the work on Lenoir-Rhyne Boulevard near the campus and the near-completion of Hollar Hosiery as a restaurant and entertainment complex will encourage owners of other nearby empty mills to upgrade their properties.

Dianne Whitacre Straley is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Dianne? Email her at dfwhit@gmail.com.