2013 Business Outlook: Prospects looking up in new year | NevadaAppeal.com

2013 Business Outlook: Prospects looking up in new year

John Barrettejbarrette@nevadaappeal.com
Jim Grant / Nevada AppealA deal is possibly close to being reached to sell the former Citibank building on Telegraph Street.

It’s steady as she goes with wind-in-the-sails prospects for Carson City commerce next year, including hopes of a bid for smoother sailing downtown. Business elsewhere in the capital also is expected, but Telegraph Square is in focus because sources say Steve Neighbors, manager of the Hop & Mae Adams Foundation, may buy the former Citibank building. The idea, if the deal and additional plans jell in 2013, could mean a performing arts academy charter high school for the building on the square’s southwest corner, bringing young people there daily.But due diligence, including an inspection of the former bank building, is still in progress.“He hasn’t closed on the building,” said Brad Bonkowski, an informed commercial Realtor who said he isn’t Neighbors’ representative for the deal.Bonkowski, a county/city supervisor-elect, replied when asked point blank and urged caution about raising expectations before any closing.Eugene Paslov, the lifelong educator spearheading the academy idea, said the bank building was the right size and is the preferred site, “but it’s very iffy” currently. Paslov also chairs the city cultural commission.“That’s a great location for us,” he said, adding it would be consistent with what he called “soft economic development for downtown.” He said the academy will work with others in cultural education to move forward.Neighbors, for his part, wasn’t ready to comment but said both before and after talk surfaced about his interest that downtown development is crucial.“I think how downtown Carson City goes is how the city goes,” he said. Neighbors acknowledged looking at downtown buildings for foundation investments.“I’m liquidating farms in Idaho and, big picture, making investments in Carson City,” he said. And he said he is looking for viable partners in the process who are interested in such downtown space.Neighbors, moving on from city voters’ November rejection of financing for the Knowledge & Discovery Center project with a library as underpinning, said the project would have helped bring in 21st century jobs.He still views such high-paying jobs as important and The Hub, an Adams Business Development Center, backed by Neighbors will open next year as an incubator for start-ups and growing high tech firms. The former Stewart Title Co. building, 222 N. Carson St., is being renovated to house the incubator. Should the former Citibank building deal and the academy idea jell, an arts school would bring young people downtown and spark liveliness there, according to Carson City Supervisor Karen Abowd. She favors the idea, but wasn’t among those disclosing the possible buyer.Though it wouldn’t be a private business, the charter school might act as what retailers refer to as a shadow anchor — a large store or public place generating foot traffic that helps outlets nearby.The property includes 24,759 square feet of space, 4,309 of it in a basement and the rest on two upper floors. There is nearby parking.Supervisor John McKenna said “there could be” spinoff help in it for downtown firms, but “it would depend how the charter school is structured” and he is uncertain it would help much.“I’d rather see a sales tax-generator,” he said. Abowd, meanwhile, also hopes to help bring in businesses to the city’s northern corridor. North Town Plaza, College Parkway and Highway 395, for example has considerable empty space.It was anchored by K-Mart, which closed in 2003, and Gold’s Gym took just part of that space when it moved there from just south of the city. Space ranging from 1584 square feet to 29,338 square feet in North Town Plaza was listed at $13.80 to $19.80 per square foot on an Internet site, but lease costs for those eight vacancies also were labeled negotiable. Abowd’s 2013 agenda includes enhancing the convention and visitors bureau as well, with the goal marketing the city’s story nationally and internationally. Properties downtown and to the north are by no means the only ones upon which city commerce can capitalize in 2013.Outgoing Supervisor Shelly Aldean cited “a glimmer of hope in the retail sector” in the face of turgid economic recovery in recent years.She said 25,000 square feet of new and existing in-line shop space at Southgate Shopping Center on South Carson Street “is under lease to a national retailer who should open for business by the end of 2013.” She wasn’t free to disclose that retailer’s identity.- Aldean said a number of large-scale retail vacancies are on the verge of being filled, which she called good news, and her assessment included a reference to the former Gottschalks space in Carson Mall.Ronni Hannaman, Chamber of Commerce executive director, joined Aldean in implying the former Gottschalks space may get filled. Large retailers aren’t the only players. Smaller food service firms, including some already in place, should help the area in 2013.Among them is Five Guys Burgers & Fries and the re-opened Jamba Juice just south of the city at the shopping center on Topsy Lane in Douglas County. Both were open for the holiday season and attracting patrons. On tap next year in Carson, are Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, which will open to the north in Carson City, and Wing Stop, which is leasing space at Southgate not far from the Olive Garden.Stan Jones, Chamber chairman and with the Purple Avocado gift shop downtown, said those “are not insignificant investments.” Jones and Hannaman, however, indicated the Chamber outlook is for slow and steady improvement rather than a boomlet.“Good things are happening, but we’re in wait-and-see mode,” said Hannaman. She cited fiscal cliff negotiations by policymakers on the national scene and business reactions everywhere to those talks.“When the stock market fluctuates over somebody sneezing in the rest room, people are cautious,” she said.Cautious or not, some take action. Tim Rowe, Carson City Airport manager, and Steve Poscic, who has Carson Aviation Adventures and Carson Aviation Services there, say Poscic wants to expand soon.He is in talks of adding commercial flight training to his individual flight school operations, and hopes in the process to enhance the maintenance business handled by his services company.Realtor Bob Fredlund said he sold a canning facility 50,000 square feet of local space, part of it already leased, and expects 25-28 employees at the facility. The buyer didn’t respond when called.Fredlund said he’s optimistic, added industrial space is filling up, and offered his opinion retail and office action will follow with time. He said eight houses are under way in Silver Oak, which is better than zero some five years ago. “I’m very optimistic,” he said, but added: “I don’t think we’re going to see a boom.” Bonkowski offered upbeat views from his business perspective. The city no longer is caught in the down part of the business cycle, he said, and his business picked up in the fall.“We first see industrial properties, then apartments,” he said. “That will drive the retail and, finally, office. Right now the industrial market is very, very strong.”Mayor Robert Crowell and others also sound hopeful, even upbeat. “There are a number of things happening in Carson City that don’t meet the eye,” said Crowell.Rob Hooper of Northern Nevada Development Authority said the region is recovering and he is working with 300-450 companies to attract them into the area.“We just constantly are bringing in new ones,” he said.Michael Salogga, manager of Carson City’s Business Resource Innovation Center, said his activity levels are up and he sees “trickles of hope” for next year.“My general take on that is: I think we’re coming out of the bottom,” he said, “but at the same time it’s steady a she goes.”