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Updated: February 8, 2021 Focus on Commercial Development

Commercial development in 2021: From retail reboots to ‘ghost’ kitchens, here’s what’s trending

Courtesy / Harriman A rendering shows TDB LLC’s planned Vertical Harvest development.

What are the hot commercial development trends to watch out for in 2021? Here’s what a handful of experts told Mainebiz.

Greg Day, TDB LLC, Westbrook

Greg Day

Development with a purpose: “Through COVID, I’m seeing a renewed emphasis on real estate investments that improve communities. Combining social impact with social infrastructure is a powerful combination that can garner widespread stakeholder support and create essential assets to communities or regions with longevity. The master-planned development in Westbrook is a great precedent with these attributes combining food production, job creation, city infrastructure and housing in an urban setting.”

Bev Uhlenhake, Epstein Commercial Real Estate, Bangor

Bev Uhlenhake

Business, landlord cooperation: “Many businesses and landlords in Maine worked together to keep businesses afloat last year. This early cooperation will allow both groups to survive and thrive in 2021.”

Queen City’s quest: “The lack of industrial inventory will continue to make it difficult for the Bangor region to jump on opportunities. We need to find creative ways to make the numbers work for the businesses and the developers. If we don’t have places for these businesses to go, the region’s economy as a whole is missing out.”

Justin Lamontagne, NAI The Dunham Group, Portland

The Dunham Group
Justin Lamontagne

From big box to industrial: “The potential repositioning and reuse of vacant big-box retail stores and centers as industrial space. Many of these stores are large warehouses, featuring tall ceilings, loading docks, ample parking, etc. This is a real trend nationally, and we’re starting to see signs of it here. In fact, in Lewiston, the former Flagship Cinema on Lisbon Street has been leased to an industrial logistics company. And my firm is starting to market a portion of the Bangor Mall as industrial. These changes will take time and cooperation from municipal governments. But the hard truth is that some of these spaces are simply functionally obsolete in as-is condition.”

Jessica Estes, Boulos Co., Portland

Jessica Estes

Virtual therapy from doctors’ offices: “Talk therapy has shifted online, but I don’t expect they will all give up their office space. Therapists want to get away from the kids and dogs at home when they work, just like the rest of us. I expect they will have appointments via Zoom or [telemedicine platform] while they are in their offices as often as meeting people face-to-face going forward.”

More takeout businesses sharing ‘ghost’ kitchens: “Restaurants will continue to offer robust to-go services, and we’ll see more than one additional ghost kitchen in the Portland area, adding to the one that is in Gorham now.”

Creative parking solutions: “Downtown businesses and garage owners will need to get creative with parking and parking passes. If employees are only coming to work two to three days a week, is it necessary for them to have a parking spot every day in a garage? Does a downtown firm with 100 employees need to pay for 100 parking spots in a garage if only 30 to 40 employees are coming to work every day? If we can get garage owners to adopt new technology, our parking woes can be greatly reduced in the city. Garages can still be full and accommodate a lot more people if we can have shared passes.”

Buy local movement here to stay: “More and more consumers are eager to shop local and support the local economy. This trend will continue.”

Curtis Picard, Retail Association of Maine, Augusta

Curtis Picard

Retail reboot: “We’ve seen the trend of more pop-ups, shared space and mobile set-ups continue both pre-pandemic and throughout the pandemic. It’s been a great way to test a market with minimal investment.”

Large retail development: “While not as extensive as the early 2000s, large retail development is still happening. Examples include Jordan’s Furniture at the Maine Mall and Bernie & Phyl’s Furniture store nearby, plus the new Target that will be coming to Auburn in a year or so.”

Jim Brady, Fathom Cos., Portland

Jim Brady

Quiet time for offices and hotels: “I think residential is the mode of real estate development for the foreseeable future — more so than offices and hotels — at least until jobs and the economy rebound.”

Tenants’ market for restaurants and retail: “I would predict we are going to see a lot of food and beverage and retail spaces available for lease this summer. It could be a tenants’ market for getting landlord concessions for a while.”

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