Official Says Commercial Vacancy Rate is Actually Low

February 22, 2024

A casual walk or drive along The Great and North Roads can be deceptive about the state of the local economy.

There are empty storefronts in the two principal shopping centers, as well as scattered vacancies in smaller spaces from the stores and offices at 363 The Great Road on the corner of Pine Street to the medical building beyond the Carlisle Road split.

But Jeff King, Bedford’s director of housing and economic development, did the math, and he reported at a recent Middlesex 3 coalition program that the vacancy rate for retail, commercial, and small-office space is 6.68 percent.

King, who presented an upbeat picture at a presentation titled, “What’s Happening in Bedford,” said his primary sources were the assessors’ office database and real estate transactions.

The vacancy rate for retail, commercial, and small-office space in Bedford is 6.68 percent. Staff photo by Wayne Braverman

The total amount of space in the three categories is 1,166,102 square feet, King said. This includes not only three department stores, two supermarkets, and an auto dealership, but also some significant office in the Middlesex Turnpike-Crosby Drive corridor.

He noted that the largest empty store is the former Home Goods in the Great Road Shopping Center, almost 30,000 square feet. Home Goods closed more than four years ago. Other vacant stores and offices are much smaller, he noted.

King also told the Middlesex 3 session that within the past three years, the town lost four restaurants.

But there are also changes taking shape or on the horizon. Space is being prepared at 363 The Great Road for a franchise of DRIPBaR. There is talk that Chase Bank will be occupying the space that most recently housed Santander Bank at The Great and Springs roads.

And according to Amy Daniels, regional director of leasing for the new owner of the Bedford Marketplace, Kimco, “We have already begun widely marketing the two vacancies that remain at the center and have just successfully leased the formerly vacant Unit 10, with more detail on that coming soon.”

The total number of business establishments in Bedford is 730, King told the group. He said the town has a residential labor force of 7,365, but the total number of jobs, including Hanscom Air Force Base, is 23,408. The most recent unemployment rate is 2.5 percent, consistent with the region.

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