Why some multiuse property owners are having a difficult time finding retailers

East Washington Avenue has flourished in the last few years. With the emergence of multiuse buildings, property developers have helped bring in retailers, restaurants and residents.

Property owner and developer Otto Gebhardt owns three major multiuse buildings on East Washington Avenue and said the reason his properties have been so successful at bringing in retailers is that they have good visibility, good anchor stores, parking and population density.

Gebhardt said, “With East Washington Avenue, it has your main thoroughfare. You’ve got most of your traffic coming back and forth on East Washington Avenue.”

The owner of The Brink Lounge and Hotel Indigo, Curt Brink, said the most important thing he’s noticed in having successful businesses in Madison has to do with “parking. because certain retailers need a certain amount of parking and it’s just hard to get in those other locations.”

While Gebhardt and Brink have found their success with their properties, not all multiuse property owners have been as successful.

“When you get into the suburbs and some outer areas, you do find an issue with not enough density to support the retail,” Gebhardt said. “So, the retail is a great concept in any case but if you don’t have the density of population to support that retail, it becomes a bit of an issue.”

Some multiuse buildings in other parts of Madison are vacant, in search of retailers to lease out their first-floor space; it’s something that’s required by the city.

“Over on Johnson Street, the new project just went up there with mixed-use retail,” Brink said. “I don’t think any retail has gone in there yet. In certain areas, it’s just going to be difficult to do.”

City of Madison Planning Director Heather Stouder said there are many challenges when it comes to retail. Stouder said many people are shopping online, making brick-and-mortar retailers more difficult to find, and it’s become increasingly difficult to find restaurants that are willing to invest in a space.

Stouder said some multiuse buildings are successful, such as the ones in the Atwood community, while others, such as the ones on Park Street, are not. Stouder is still confident that, as construction continues to develop in Madison, more daytime shoppers, retailers and business owners will help fill the void so that property owners can get more retailers in all locations.

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