I'm reading a book right now called Life Inc. and it would suggest to me that 80% of you are going to be mad I am posting this. The other 20% are the ones that actually seek change. Our short term property value problem is going to become our long term property value problem if we don't start to embrace some key issues and get creative on how to resolve them.
Kevin Sampson asked if I would post an editorial about his recent trials and tribulations in trying to open a store in Downtown Lynn. Here is what he has to say:
Guest post from local resident and once potential downtown business owner, Kevin Sampson
Earlier this year I set out to secure commercial space in downtown Lynn for a business that I planned to open. I had toyed with the idea of opening my own business for years but it seemed like the stars were finally aligned. I was meeting the right people, making the right connections, finding investors, gathering the support of local city officials and had a wonderful team of friends and neighbors supporting me and working with me to make my dream become a reality. Everything was going well until the search for commercial space began.
Take a quick walk around downtown Lynn and one would easily surmise that there are tons of options. Just ask the VNA. According to them and others, additional retail space at our gateway was unnecessary given how many empty store fronts we have in the downtown. I guess I was naïve because I honestly expected to find a space relatively easily. Boy was I wrong.
The spaces that are available in my opinion are class C at best. Downtown Lynn does not have any class A commercial spaces and class B would be a generous evaluation for most. The empty spaces are in shambles. What do I mean by that? I mean, no HVAC systems, no functioning bathroom, improper means of egress, faulty electrical work, non-secure access, improper fire wall separation, deteriorating floors…..
When spaces are so below code or just require a HUGE amount of work just to get it clean what kind of businesses are they going to attract? Certainly not the kind of businesses that most every resident I speak to who lives in DTL are hoping for. I don’t expect landlords to roll out the red carpet but I would expect at the very least that they have the space UP TO CITY CODE. I expect landlords to make their properties attractive to potential business. If you go to sell your house you stage it. You don’t white out the windows, leave graffiti on the façade, or keep piles of trash in the space. I guess you do if you don’t want your house to ever sell.
I think landlords have a lot of nerve to expect a potential tenant to put tens of thousands of dollars of improvements into their spaces JUST to bring it up to code so that the space is eligible for an occupancy permit. I don’t expect a landlord to do any special build out, or lighting, or signage or any of the usual things a business does to outfit a space. Of course that is the responsibility of the business who is seeking to open. But I do expect landlords to have their spaces up to code and present a blank canvas to potential tenants who can then put their mark on the space with the build out. I think it is deplorable to have a landlord say, “I’d rather keep the space empty and wait for someone else to bring it up to code”. I am glad EDIC is working so hard to develop DTL. It will be years, if ever, before someone comes along and says, “Sure I will spend $30k+ just to bring a space up to code”.
The quality of the spaces is not the only issue. I was really unhappy with the lack of what I consider to be ethical business practices. I don’t do deals under the table. I don’t appreciate property managers not being up front with information about spaces. I don’t appreciate real estate agents not being honest about whom they are representing (me or the landlord). All of those situations left a bad taste in my mouth.
So if you are willing to deal with some of the ethical ambiguity, if you are willing and able to spend huge sums of money to get a space safe and functional, if you are ready to take a risk of opening a new business in a downturned economy in a city that has been fighting a nasty reputation, then you get the reward of paying in some cases $13-15 per square foot. That’s the kicker! I am amazed at the rent prices for the area. A trusted real estate professional had shared with me that based on market value a reasonable price per square foot should be $10-11 at most.
I used to wonder why most businesses didn’t come to downtown Lynn. After my experience I understand why. I wonder how many other people like me tried and gave up when they realized just how terrible the inventory is.