Mercer Island commercial space slumps with recession

The business directory for the 77 Central building remains mostly empty, as new space has yet to be filled. 77 Central, a retail and apartment complex in the Town Center, has been open for nearly a year. - Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter
The business directory for the 77 Central building remains mostly empty, as new space has yet to be filled. 77 Central, a retail and apartment complex in the Town Center, has been open for nearly a year.
— image credit: Elizabeth Celms/Mercer Island Reporter

Like much of the Seattle area, Mercer Island has no shortage of commercial real estate up for lease. The signs are visible throughout the Town Center. Even on the South end, shopping center windows advertise vacant retail and office spaces. It is a reflection of the times. Yet commercial realtors on the Island say the situation is getting better.

“How is the retail market? Things are definitely improving,” said Jay Azose, vice president of Morris Piha Real Estate Services. “I think everyone still sees a lot of vacancies, but in the next six months, you’ll see a lot of things open up.”

This is especially true in the Town Center, where new developments such as 77 Central and the 7800 Plaza Condos — the latter of which opened earlier this year — offer residential and commercial spaces alike. Yet the street level windows of these complexes, reserved for retail and office space, remain empty.

While the western-facing side of 77 Central has finally been filled with businesses — Six Walls Interior Design, Mercer Island Martial Arts and HSBC Bank, the remaining three blocks of space, including 7800 Plaza’s ground floor, has yet to be filled.

Michael Woo, of Urban Pacific Real Estate, however, said that a number of businesses have inquired about the spaces in 7800 Plaza.

“We’re actively working on retail,” he said, adding that the building’s northern-facing office space has already been rented. “We’re optimistic. We’re just waiting for the right folks to come along.”

According to the commercial real estate Web site, there are 18 retail buildings listed as “for lease” on Mercer Island, several of them offering multiple spaces. These include the new buildings, 77 Central and Island Square.

The Web site reports that 77 Central has four spaces (1,685 square feet and 2,375 square feet) available. Prices are $32 per square-foot, per year (SF/year). Island Square has two spaces open: 1,189 square feet for $32/SF/year and 728 square feet for $26/SF/year.

As for the Town Center’s older buildings, eight spaces are available in the Island Corporate Center on S.E. 24th Street.

The leasing prices range from 793 square feet for $38/SF/year to 3,062 square feet for $38/SF/year. Three spaces are available in the Mercer Island Office Plaza on 77th Avenue S.E. They average 1,800 square feet for $27 a year.

Away from the Town Center, in the office park adjacent to City Hall near the East Channel Bridge, there are also commercial spaces up for lease. One building offers a 7,359-square-foot office, fit for 13 people, at $16.50/SF/year.

The same is true for the South-end business district, according to Azose. Yet finding renters for the South end is more difficult than the Town Center.

“Right now, I have three office spaces open and three retail. It’s probably fair to say the South end is harder. The office tenant is typically a resident of the South end of Mercer Island, looking to work away from home,” he said.

And what about the abandoned Hollywood Video store? Azose said that there have been several offers for the 7,200-square-foot building, which Morris Piha is quoting at $30/SF/year.

“We have received some offers. We’re discussing them presently. We’re trying to come up with the right fit,” he said.

Meanwhile, the behemoth building sits empty, weeds sprouting between its sidewalk corners in the April rain.

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