Neil H. Warshafsky, CCIM, a commercial broker with Royal LePage Commercial, says agents should think outside the box when trying to fill large or perennially vacant spaces, pointing to the success that agents south of the border have had when faced with similar problems.
“In the States, some of those [difficult-to-lease] locations have gone to city halls, fitness centres, libraries,” he says. “They’ve been filled with other uses.”
Warshafsky says Canadian agents should consider alternative uses for these spaces, particularly for locations that have been empty for some time. Lawrence Square in Toronto, he says, has been vacant for three or four years, and could benefit from a broader range of potential uses.
“There might be some fringe locations that can become terminal vacancies,” he says of the 124 locations that will soon become former Target stores. “There are some malls and properties where the agents will have difficulty finding replacement tenants.”
Warshafsky says he’s not privy to the plans that RioCan has for its space, though GoodLife Fitness was rumoured to be looking to fill some of those vacancies.
Another option, Warshafsky says, is to split the large square footage into more manageable smaller spaces.
“Some [property owners] might divide them up here,” he says. “Office space seems to work in some places. You have good ceiling heights and it’s nice and spread out.
“Change of use is something certainly to be considered.”
Target’s somewhat sudden departure from Canada offers commercial agents a great lesson about dealing with a lot of empty space.