UNIONDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Retail vacancy rates at shopping centers and malls are rising dramatically, and now residents and realtors on Long Island, worried about eyesores, are urging a shift to diversity.
Take a drive around Nassau County and look out the window. Bankruptcies and closings are widespread.
“I have noticed the vacancies of retail shops in my hometown and all over Nassau County,” homeowner Michael Murphy told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan on Monday.
Shopping centers that had big box anchors, such as Fortunoff, Sears, Mattress Firm and ToysRUs, must transition and diversify. Otherwise, property taxes, strict zoning laws and high-priced square footage could contribute to a wasteland.
The vacancy rate of 7.3 percent at Long Island shopping centers represents some of the highest numbers in 18 years.
“Chaos breeds opportunity. In retail, some are calling it a revolution. Others are calling it a massive disruption,” said realtor Kenneth Schuckman, president of Schuckman Realty in Lake Success.
“The internet purchases are the number one cause,” one person said.
“I shop online probably every day,” a woman added.
“This is the Amazon affect,” a man said.
Schuckman and others said they see the silver lining. Medical offices, restaurants with entertainment themes, gyms, furniture and off-price stores are already successfully buying in — and shoppers are noticing.
“A lot of juice bars. Urgent cares. There’s like four in my neighborhood,” one person said.
“Fitness places are probably good, right?” another said.
“An indoor little market place with a bunch of maybe food vendors,” another said.
Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island say one vacant store in Hicksville will become multi-family housing.
“Main streets, as well as retail malls and strip centers, are all transforming. Change isn’t coming — it’s here,” Alexander said.
Retailers and civic groups say they want to be flexible, and open to new ideas. They hope to work together to come up with the right fit.
BabiesRUs at Roosevelt Raceway recently closed after 23 years. A Queens real estate firm is moving in.