Years ago, when a large retail store closed, the space remained empty for years, often with a cracked parking lot and even some boarded-up windows.
But now, Franklin has only one large retail vacancy, and Greenwood has none, a change local officials credit to a rebounding economy.
Most recently, Weekends Only, a furniture retailer, moved into a space that once was a Kroger store on Emerson Avenue, just north of County Line Road. That location closed in 2015 when a new Kroger Marketplace store was built across the street.
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Before that, Urban Air Adventure Park, an indoor activity center, opened in Franklin last year in a former Marsh store along Main Street. In 2016, a used car dealer took over a Marsh store along U.S. 31 in Greenwood that had closed four years prior. And a new Johnson Memorial Health physician’s office opened in Whiteland in 2016, where a former grocery store had closed 14 years before.
The choice of looking to lease an existing, 60,000-square-foot store rather than constructing a new one comes down to the cost being significantly cheaper, Weekends Only President Lane Hamm said. And the southside is a key area to target because of the large amount of middle-class residents, the growing population and active home construction market, Hamm said.
In recent years, the majority of large retail store vacancies have been the result of grocery store closings, with companies such as Marsh going out of business, and others, such as Kroger, moving to new, larger buildings.
Getting vacant buildings filled has been important for Greenwood and Franklin officials, who want to avoid having an eyesore in the heart of their commercial areas. Empty retail buildings had been a consistent problem for those cities, with varying large stores along State Road 135 and U.S. 31 being vacant for periods of time.
“We don’t like to see buildings sit empty,” Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said. “They become an eyesore. They generally aren’t taking care of the exterior.”
But now, Greenwood doesn’t have any vacant big box stores within its city limits. But a former Marsh grocery in the Center Grove area on the west side State Road 135 is closed and a Babies “R” Us on U.S. 31, north of County Line Road is set to close soon.
The main challenge with filling large retail stores is a limited selection of businesses that would be appropriate to fill them.
“Big-box stores are designed for a certain use, and a lot of the time it is hard to reconfigure them,” Myers said.
In Franklin, the remaining large retail site where the city is hoping for a new tenant is the former Kroger store on U.S. 31 that was left empty at the end of 2016 when a Kroger Marketplace location opened about half-a-mile away on U.S. 31, Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said.
Multiple companies have expressed interest in the site, ranging from grocery stores to retailers to bakeries, he said.
Anytime he speaks with businesses expressing interest in coming to Franklin that is well suited for the former Kroger store, he makes sure to mention the location to them, Barnett said.
In the past several years, several formerly vacant big-box stores have been filled with new businesses. Here’s a look at, which locations have been filed, and which ones still remain vacant
- Weekends Only, 8850 S. Emerson Avenue, Indianapolis — formerly Kroger
- DriveHubler Pre-Owned, 880 U.S. 31, Greenwood — formerly Marsh
- Rural King, 860 U.S. 31, Greenwood — formerly Kmart
- Urban Air Adventure Park, Franklin — formerly Marsh
- Kroger, 1702 N. Morton St., Franklin
- Marsh, 2904 State Road 135, Bargersville
- Babies “R” Us, 8800 U.S. 31 South, Indianapolis