Kingsdale Shopping Center: Vacancies are few as redevelopment project approaches

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Sales associate Scott Hieatt helps David Foster of Upper Arlington search for hardware supplies Jan. 7, 2021, at Nutter Hardware & Rental in the Kingsdale Shopping Center. According to Emma Speight, the city’s community-affairs director, three of the 30 tenant spaces are vacant at the center.

Nearly two decades after experiencing more than 50% vacancy rates, Kingsdale Shopping Center is thriving and in line for a major redevelopment. 

Ahead of Upper Arlington City Council’s Nov. 30 agreement to move toward a tax-increment financing deal with Continental Real Estate Cos. for the redevelopment of the former Macy’s property at Kingsdale, Councilmen Brian Close and Jim Lynch said the proposed project was needed to bolster the vitality of the center. 

Close said recent turnover at the center raised concerns about it “taking a step back,” and the Continental project would provide it with a “shot in the arm.” 

Lynch said he lives 700 feet from Kingsdale and was “increasingly concerned with the rise in vacancies” that he’d seen there. 

“We’ve seen a number of businesses that have shuttered and I can remember back to those days of 10, 12, 13 years ago when we had a dead Kingsdale,” he said. 

According to the Upper Arlington City Manager’s Office, however, only a few storefronts are vacant at Kingsdale, a largely retail center centrally located in Upper Arlington. 

“The current vacancy rate is 10%,” Emma Speight, the city’s community-affairs director said Dec. 16. “There are 30 tenant spaces in what we consider the Kingsdale Center, with three vacancies. The total square footage of those vacancies is approximately 11,000 square feet.” 

Kingsdale is owned by Pittsburgh-based ECHO Realty. The company didn’t respond to requests for comment regarding vacancy rates. 

As of Jan. 7, ECHO’s website said Kingsdale has a total of 218,472 square feet, and that two properties within it – with a total of 7,404 square feet – were available for lease. 

In spring 2003, when Kingsdale was owned by Florida-based Regency Centers and city officials fretted over the outlook for the shopping center, vacancy rates were more than 50%. A May 2003 article in The Columbus Dispatch said 27 of Kingsdale’s 52 store spaces were empty and two additional businesses had announced plans to leave. 

Speight said following the 2009 redevelopment of Kingsdale, a project that was led by Continental, there was a time the center was fully occupied. 

“Recent closures include The Outdoor Source, AAA and Saturday’s,” Speight said. “Several restaurants have opened and closed at the center in recent years, including Rancho Alegre, Bonsai and Lightbulb Asia Café.  

“This does not include the former Barnes and Noble café or the Yabo’s Restaurant, which both closed earlier this year. These are located within the Kingsdale triangle but are not part of Kingsdale Center.” 

Speight said Continental’s plans to redevelop the former Macy’s site with apartments, senior housing, a restaurant and office space, indicate Kingsdale remains “a quality location for business.” 

Even without Continental’s proposed project, she said, Kingsdale would remain viable because of Upper Arlington’s strong market for neighborhood retail. 

With the redevelopment, Speight said, Kingsdale will become more attractive to businesses and residents. 

“Continental’s proposed mixed-use development would help to strengthen their market with the increase in residents and workers that would be directly within walking distance,” she said. “An increase in the customer base would have a positive impact on the center’s desirability to the type of businesses and restaurants that Upper Arlington residents have said they wanted. 

“It will have a positive impact on the Kingsdale Center and surrounding businesses, increasing patronage for existing businesses and helping to attract new retail and restaurants.” 

While some residents, including those in the Wakefield Forest neighborhood, have expressed concerns about the proposed density of Continental’s project and the impact it will have on local traffic, some locally owned Kingsdale tenants are eager to see it move forward. 

Chuck Nutter, who has operated Nutter Hardware and Rental at 3078 Kingsdale Center since August 2011, said the center has been “pretty vibrant” since it was redeveloped in 2009. 

“It was a complete revitalization,” Nutter said. “It’s prime real estate. It’s the best place for a hardware store, in terms of central location, in Upper Arlington. That’s the way it is for any retail business here.” 

Nutter credited ECHO for being more invested in the health of Kingsdale than the center’s previous owners and said he expects the Macy’s redevelopment to further strengthen its businesses. 

“Parking might be an issue, but parking issues are good problems to have,” he said. “Whatever they decide to have in that space is going to help the retailers at the center, no question.” 

Jeff Ross, owner of Jeffrey Thomas Co., a men’s clothing store at 3148 Kingsdale Center, has operated his business at various locations in the center since 1987. 

He said Kingsdale is “a great place to be,” because of its location and a “very loyal customer base.” 

As for the plans to redevelop the Macy’s site, Ross said he’s “very excited.” 

“Obviously, it’s a traffic-generator and we’re excited about that,” he said. “It’ll bring more people to this part of Upper Arlington, and I know it’s going to be great for businesses here.” 

Speight said Kingsdale generated approximately $347,000 in total property taxes for the city and Upper Arlington Schools in 2020. 

Of that amount, the city retained approximately $85,400, and the schools received $261,600, she said.