Ruth's Chris Steak House is still cooking, and Costco, Cabela's and Main Event are still looking.
But the most intriguing part of Price Edwards & Co.'s midyear retail property market summary report is what it doesn't mention.
“There are several more that are not prepared at this time to announce their intentions,” Price Edwards teased.
Jim Parrack, senior vice president and retail specialist, wouldn't budge when pressed.
Big box-type retailers looking for space “have sworn everybody to secrecy,” he said. They are “names that people would recognize. People will be glad if they come.”
Would-be newcomers are always looking, he said, but the numbers and intensity of site selectors reflects activity higher than it's been in 10 years.
Oklahoma City retail development is hot, in other words. Sizzling even, speaking of Ruth's Chris — although no deal has yet closed on a location for the national upscale steakhouse. When it comes off, it'll be a cut above the rest.
“It's a different level of restaurant than has been in Oklahoma City for a couple of reasons. It is a national upscale restaurant — not that we don't have great local ones,” Parrack said. “What that really means, to me, is they have to be able to do significant dollar volume for it to make sense for them to move here. And they think they can.”
The report was full of name brands that are still new to the market: Nordstrom Rack at Belle Isle Shopping Center, Hemispheres' expansion to Fritts Farm in Moore, Dick's Sporting Goods across the metro area, north, south, east and west.
LA Fitness should start construction on three or four locations soon. Mathis Brothers is adding more Sleep Studios and will soon announce locations for its Ashley Furniture Stores. Von Maur is still on track to replace Sears at Quail Springs Mall.
Space is limited
Retailers such as Dick's Sporting Goods and LA Fitness are building from the ground up for lack of existing space, Price Edwards noted. But demand is pushing developers, so a few larger projects are in the works.
Some are along the Memorial Road corridor — such as Chisholm Creek between Western and Pennsylvania and Shops at North Village at NW 150 and May — and some are expansions of existing projects, the firm reported.
University Northpark in Norman is preleasing space for a “lifestyle” section and is underway on its second phase. Westgate Marketplace has added several out-parcels. The Outlet Shoppes just announced a 30,385-square-foot expansion. All reflect high occupancy and strong sales, Price Edwards said.
Retail vacancy declined to 9 percent at midyear from 10.2 percent at the end of 2012, with nearly 200,000 square feet of space absorbed and increased occupancy in six of seven submarkets tracked, Price Edwards reported.
Newer shopping centers are nearly full, with those built since 2000 more than 95 percent occupied, “and our overhang of big-box space is in essence gone,” the firm said.
As usual, the firm reported, older shopping centers with poorly configured space or owners with limited resources have higher vacancy. Also, historic retail corridors that still have good traffic and demographics — such as N May Avenue and Northwest Expressway — have taken hits as retailers are drawn to newer hot spots along the interstates, Price Edwards said.
Positive, but ...
Overall, though, Oklahoma City retail is in good shape, strengthened by low unemployment and good income growth, the firm said.
“Keep in mind that one of our market's strengths is that our highs never get too high and our lows never get too low (at least since the '80s oil bust), so activity should be positive but not aggressive,” Price Edwards said. “The fact that the national retail market is recovering will also temper our growth as many retailers will focus their attention on the larger, more dynamic markets.
“And, we should never overlook the risk inherent in our energy market: an extended lull in the market or a downturn of any length will take the air out of our retail growth.”
There are several more that are not prepared at this time to announce their intentions.”