Many empty spaces on the Regina retail market won’t be empty for long, according to a commercial realtor.

When the old Sears outlet store closed down last year in the Warehouse District, it left square foot upon square foot of empty space.

“It was a huge financial impact for all small business owners in the area,” said Chrysta Garner.

Garner is the marketing manager for Centennial Market – which is now open three days a week in the vacant space. It offers a spot for local vendors to display and sell their creations. It also brought new life into an old building.

“We couldn’t live without a major anchor being in this building,” Garner said. “That’s why this all came about.”

Commercial realtors say sometimes thinking outside the box helps to fill a vacant building. Reinventing the space can help make a building profitable again.

“Oftentimes, we get a job to fill these spaces, which can be a little challenging at their size,” said Ryan Babey with Colliers International. “There (are) very limited retailers that can take on a big space of 40 or 50,000 square feet or even more. So, sometimes landlords are going to have to get creative – cut the space up, lease to smaller tenants – in order to attract those tenants to smaller spaces.”

When Sears Canada declared bankruptcy, it left three large stores empty and added 266,000 square feet of vacant retail space to the Regina market. It translated to a retail vacancy rate of 4.59 per cent – the highest in a decade. But, the numbers can be deceiving.

“Without that Sears leaving the market, we actually would have decreased our vacancy rates for the year,” Babey said.

Babey said the Queen City’s retail market is stable and healthy, and most stores currently sitting vacant are in the process of redevelopment. H&M will be opening soon in the Cornwall Centre, construction is underway on a new Costco in east Regina and there are always brands looking to enter the market by opening in existing locations, rather than a pricey new building. Chronic vacancies are not indicative of Regina’s overall market.

“Oftentimes it’s the size of the unit, the price maybe, the location, the access,” Babey said. “There’s usually a number of reasons.”

With 210,000 square feet to play with, Garner is hopeful the Centennial Market will continue to attract more business and grow to take advantage of its whole space.

Based on a report by CTV Regina's Ashley Field