With the Minden Gateway Center in bankruptcy, and the Center at Waterloo in Gardnerville empty as an autumn beach, it's surprising to see another commercial development going in on a former car lot along Highway 395, where the valley's sister towns converge.
Last week, developers broke ground on the 4,338-square-foot Sunset Park Center. The two-story, five-suite retail/office building will be completed by Christmas, said leasing agent and project manager Nicholas Maerz.
"There's really not a nervous factor here," Maerz said on Friday. "From a leasing standpoint, I got marching orders to have three out of the five suites reserved before breaking ground. I think we've created something that's better than what's out there now."
The three reserved spaces include an expanded yoga studio for Breathe Fitness, which currently occupies the only building on the site, a high-end hair salon, and a showroom for a local contractor, Maerz said.
The other two suites are still available, and will include infrastructure for a restaurant operation.
"We're looking at how to compete with bigger things on the market, and keeping it relatively small," Maerz said. "We're opening ourselves to a niche, to new businesses that don't need 2,400 to 5,000 square feet."
With smaller spaces come smaller prices, Maerz said.
"We looked at lease rates of vacant space across town," he said. "This has a great location, a new building, lower price points and smaller square footage. Because of developing a certain way, it's been an easy transition to find tenants. We haven't asked for a single variance, while other developments have a ton. We're not doing this for the short term."
Maerz also said that pushing the storefront to the edge of the highway and the parking lot to the back conforms to the Town of Minden's Plan for Prosperity.
"There's no dead space," he said. "It allows tenants to come in and maximize the floor plan."
Maerz, who's been working in commercial real estate for more than 20 years, said the Sunset Park Center came to fruition during a difficult time. He said the owners bought the parcel as an investment property, and found themselves in a tough spot when Capital Ford pulled out of the location in early 2008.
"They left a lot of pavement and a small building," Maerz said. "The property value was significantly diminished."
After putting it on the market for a while, the owners decided to redesign the site.
"We took the property off the market and got a tenant (Breathe Fitness) in the sole building," Maerz said. "If you do X, Y and Z, then what's the value? In redesigning the site, it came down to adding another building, an income-producing space."
Now, the owners are excited about the project, Maerz said.
"There's light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
It doesn't hurt that Maerz has a degree in architecture and also runs a development consulting firm.
"It allows interface with the engineers and architect to facilitate things," he said. "It adds predictability to projects where there are a lot of unknowns."