Page 50 - BusinessWest April 28, 2021
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“We’re seeing some new activity that is creat- ing some positive vibes,” said Goggins, president of Goggins Real Estate Inc., adding that, while challenges remain and COVID continues to take a toll on Northampton, there are many signs that a corner of sorts is being turned.
Using slightly different words and phrases, other commercial real-estate brokers and man- agers we spoke with said essentially the same as Goggins, that the market is moving back toward — here comes that phrase again — ‘something approaching normal, or a new normal.’ Meaning, they believe, that the worst is likely over.
“We still have a ways to go, but there is move- ment back to normalcy,” said Mitch Bolotin, a principal with Springfield-based Colebrook Realty Services, who is using, among other things, the parking-lot test when it comes to what’s happen- ing within this market.
Indeed, he said the parking lots at the Peo- plesBank building in Holyoke, 1441 Main St. in Springfield, and the Basketball Hall of Fame com- plex in Springfield, just some of the properties managed by the company, are more populated than they were just a few months ago, and much more full than last fall. The cars in those lots are evidence that businesses are, in fact, returning to their offices and the buildings are moving closer to pre-COVID levels of occupancy and vibrancy.
Still, hard questions remain about just how many more cars will be returning to those lots — and when. And these questions — which are being asked in urban areas across the Northeast and, indeed, across the country — will likely determine to just what extent the market fully recovers. Indeed, as leases have expired over the past year, some companies have downsized,
said Bolotin, a few have actually upsized to give employees more space in the wake of COVID, and others are essentially standing pat.
Meanwhile, when it comes to negotiating
new leases, most tenants have been able to take advantage of a market that favors them and secure a number that certainly isn’t higher, and in many cases is lower.
Ken Vincunas, president of Agawam-based Development Associates, which manages sev- eral office buildings in this region, including
the Greenfield Corporate Center and Agawam Crossing, said that nearly 14 months after COVID forced many people to work remotely, ques- tions linger about when and if businesses will summon employees back to the office, and how many will actually come back.
“I think people like to work at home,” he
said. “Businesses want them to come back, but I’m not sure the employees will want to go back.”
Meanwhile, some segments of the commer- cial market, especially industrial properties, are vibrant, if not white-hot, said Vincunas, noting that there isn’t enough inventory to meet a grow- ing need.
“The bulk of our portfolio is industrial, and that’s all pretty strong right now — inventory for that is very low, and prices are very high,” he said, adding that the market for medical real estate — and his company has some of it in the portfolio as well — remains strong.
For this issue and its focus on commercial
real estate, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look
at what’s happening within the local market and what may happen as the region continues its pur- suit of ‘normal’ — whatever that means.
Down on Main Street
As he talked about the Northampton market and what has happened within it over the past year or so, Goggins used the word ‘generational’ to describe the changes to the landscape.
By that, he meant many of the businesses that have become synonymous with Paradise City
were started by people his age — Baby Boomers at or now approaching retirement.
“Downtown Northampton took off in the ’70s, and it was fueled by people who were contempo- raries of mine who came into town or who were part of the community and decided to open res- taurants and shops,” he said. “It was fueled by the Baby Boom generation.”
And what COVID did was push some of those entrepreneurs into retirement maybe a little soon- er than they were planning, he said, adding that this led to some high-profile vacancies on Main Street, a phrase he uses to connote both that specific thoroughfare and the whole of the down- town. Those vacancies include the massive Silver-
to go, but there is movement back to normalcy.”
We still have a ways
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