A plethora of colorful shop signs are scattered between swaths of drab, vacant store fronts in street view images of the Crystal Shopping Center captured just last year. Anyone who trots into the parking lot of Crystal’s largest retail hub this year, however, will see a different picture.
The empty store fronts have nearly all been replaced with a swarm of new businesses, such as a pet supply store, a tutoring center and, occupying one of the largest spaces formerly held by Michaels, an upcoming Planet Fitness. More than 113,000 square feet of retail space have been leased at Crystal Shopping Center since March 2015, according to Crystal Communications Coordinator Michael Peterson.
The resurgence of businesses investing in Crystal is a sign of a strengthening retail economy that has struggled to recover after the 2008 economic recession, according to Crystal Community Development Director John Sutter.
“These investments indicate a strengthening compared to the depths of the recession,” Sutter said. “The bottom line for Crystal is that this represents continued and growing investment in our main commercial area, and that represents strength.”
The Crystal Shopping Center, owned by Paster Properties, is now at 95 percent capacity with only five out of the 41 spaces still open. To be specific, that’s 8,708 square feet available out of a total 214,147 square feet.
Located at the intersection of Bass Lake Road and West Broadway, the smaller Crystal Town Center, another Paster Properties asset, is also nearing capacity. Only two spaces, each about 2,000 square feet, are unoccupied out of the total 55,532 square feet.
Planet Fitness, the latest addition to the Crystal Shopping Center strip, isn’t ready to open its doors yet as internal construction is still underway but will likely be ready for the public late this fall or early next year, filling up one of the largest spaces in that center.
Paster Properties Senior Leasing Rep and Development Associate Mike Sturdivant said he anticipates more consumer interest in that area of Crystal with full retail sections.
“I think we’re creating more of a place for people to work, live and shop at Bass Lake and Broadway,” Sturdivant said. “With Planet Fitness … there’s going to be more activity going on at that intersection.”
The shopping center and town center, however, aren’t the only areas experiencing growth.
Even though the main retail sections are filling up, Paster Properties has expanded its growth into the nearby Target parking lot. In January, Paster Properties entered negotiations with Crystal and Target to buy a 5,000 square foot parcel of land in the northeast portion of the parking lot. Hennepin County records don’t yet have the transaction documents available, but when they are updated they can be accessed with the new property’s address – 5547 West Broadway.
The new development will take a chunk of parking spaces out of the lot which largely go unused. They will be converted into a commercial building with space for two businesses, one which will have a drive-thru.
Even with the space taken away from the lot, Target will still have 450 parking spaces available. If needed, however, 51 more parking spaces can be constructed to meet the minimum 481 required by Target. New storm water facilities will also be constructed to connect to existing pipes. There is also a proposal to add a new rain garden for the property.
Additionally, traffic report was also submitted to analyze any impact this building would have on vehicle flow and access. It was determined that any additional traffic is manageable and no additional driveways or turn lanes are needed.
No date is set to begin construction, yet.
“We will begin construction as soon as we have secured the tenants,” Sturdivant said. “Right now we have letters of intent that we are negotiating. Once those are good and we have a formal lease agreement, then we will construct the building.”
Sturdivant also said target has a “black out” on construction through the fall, so things will likely get underway next year.
As retail centers near capacity and new buildings and business enter Crystal, Sutter predicts a positive impact not only on the big shopping centers, but the smaller local businesses.
“What will be interesting to watch is – as these larger centers start seeing more private investment, does that have a spin off effect on some of these smaller properties that are part of this area?” Sutter said. “They also can benefit from a strengthening commercial environment.”
Pat Bedell, owner of the local Signs of MN, hopes that a healthy retail environment will draw more consumers into her area.
“It’s going to bring more people in, cause more traffic, bring in more business for the local businesses,” Bedell said. ““Any exposure is good exposure. The extra exposure from those businesses, the extra people, will help build our businesses.”