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Empty new stores bear mute witness to recession’s toll

October 2nd, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Max Parker Dahl

NIBLEY–Driving out of the valley on U.S. 89/91 along the jagged outskirts of Nibley city, you see the impressive and brightly colored complex of neo-western storefronts near Peterson Country Store. The only issue: the stores are virtually empty.

Started in early 2007 and quickly finished mid-2008, the first phase of a city hub for the south end of Cache Valley was ready for professional tenants and retailers to set up business.

The vision projected by Valley Design and Construction included a huge square with high-end fashion shops, furniture stores, novel and specialty burrows, and fine dining options. Two more buildings and installations would then follow, to accommodate fresh, new national chain retailers to support the burgeoning economic and housing growth. It would be an epicenter for the young, hip, and hungry that seemed to be pouring into Nibley and surrounding towns on this side of the valley. It was a beautiful dream that was rudely interrupted by the greatest economic crisis and recession in recent history.

“The economy was thriving, and there was significant interest for an outlet mall in Cache Valley,” said Tiffiny Burton, who is overseeing the property and its tenants. “We’re just crossing our fingers that the economy will turn around so we can get these spaces filled.”

Plans have changed since 2008. Although 3,500 people drive past every day, there hasn’t been much forward progress for the project. With only slight improvements in consumer confidence, many underlying difficulties still surround the project.

“Complaints from handfuls of people tell me they drive by daily, but still don’t know how to enter,” Burton said. “The entrance is a bummer. We’ve asked the UDOT about painting a deceleration lane, to no avail.”

Financing has also been a problem for getting local businesses into the space. “Nobody is freeing up cash, making financing difficult. We have been turning people away because they can’t get it,” Burton said.

“My heart goes out to them,” city manager Larry Anhder said. “They thought they had something going, but housing development is half what it used to be, maybe less.”

Currently, the 40+ unit facility has only one business, an indoor driving range aptly named Golf 365. Anhder said he enjoyed his experience in Golf 365–“I had a great time shanking my ball off the course!”–and commended the staff for their pleasant and attentive efforts in running the store smoothly. Business is expected to pick up as weather turns more frigid.

Expectations have been adjusted for the future of the complex. Though national restaurants and retailers are what the space was built for, professional office spaces such as dental or chiropractic, real estate, assisted living, and consignment shops are welcome. Ideally, “the Square” would be a hangout place with accessibility to dartboards and pool tables, but the issue of transportation for college-age students becomes an issue.

The idea of an open air market was considered in early spring, and will return again if enough interest is generated to make it a profitable venture.

“There are certain things that people are willing to make the drive for,” Anhder said. “Of course, continued growth will move out that way, there is nowhere else to go, they just seem to be victims of location and economy.”

Burton agrees “the project has unbelievable potential, but is simply ahead of its time. And the downturn of the economy hasn’t helped one bit. But the owners are smart. They’re not paying a bank; otherwise we’d be in trouble.”

Leasing incentives are being offered, especially for national chain eateries or retailers. For leasing information, contact Tiffiny Burton at 435-730-2687.


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