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Local, Commercial Rental Rates Hurting Development

Several commercial rental properties are available for rent along North Main Street in Jamestown.

When local business owner Brendan Halbohm went looking for downtown storefront space to rent, it didn’t take long for sticker shock to set in.

“I couldn’t believe the prices some property owners were asking for what amounted to barely more than a one-office room, or closet space with little or no storefront value,” Halbohm said. “On the smaller side of space for rent, the average rate I was quoted at was between $900 to $1,200. For something bigger, not even much bigger, the cost was $2,000 or more.”

Halbohm wants to move into a storefront in an attempt to better serve local customers.

“At this point 100% of my business is online,” Halbohm said. “I can’t justify renting storefront space, if you call it that, where there is no parking which isn’t metered, an aggressive parking enforcement ticketing force, and a true lack of a pedestrian business population.”

Halbohm found a storefront that fit his budget in Lakewood.

“I’m moving into the Chautauqua Mall on Black Friday,” Halbohm said. “It was way cheaper than anything downtown with a ton of more space, and I don’t have to deal with all the negative stuff I mentioned before with trying to open a store in the (city) proper.”

By all accounts, Halbohm isn’t alone.

“The price of rental property is sky-high in the city,” said Keith Carlson, owner of East Side Liquor on North Main Street. “We got a decent rental rate on this property here … for the condition this building was in. However, if we could move to a different place with more parking and less of the negatives in the city.”

When questioned about the “negatives of the city” Carlson explained what he meant in detail.

“Think back to what North Main Street looked like 15 or 20 years ago,” he said. “I’ve had to hire an extra employee to be in here on Friday and Saturday nights because of the crime. I had a guy and a girl arguing in here and the girl just hauled off and wacked the guy right in his face. Another time I had a guy go to the back of the store, open a bottle, take four long drinks and run out the door.”

He added, “If I could find a place with better parking and reasonable rent, I’d move my store.”

When questioned what it would have taken to get Halbohm to open a storefront in the city, he replied, “Much more regulated and affordable rent, free parking, and events which attract local shoppers and are not geared toward tourists.”

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