Vacant in Quincy: what happens to empty space when box stores leave town

    A hub for Homegrown businesses and a strong developing workforce; but in the last decade, the city has seen large employers cut staff, close, or relocate.

    Online retail is changing the face of many cities, and Quincy is no exception.

    But what's the plan for all the empty buildings once big box stores leave town?

    In the last year, Quincy has had a front row seat as national retailers face financial woes and local businesses struggle to compete.

    Tucked in the corner of Western Illinois, The Gem City is Illinois' often-overlooked retail hub..

    "A lot of people shop here, I guess, but a lot more people shop online honestly," one Quincy resident said.

    More than 40-thousand people call Quincy home, while the city has a regional reach to tens of thousand more.

    "There are just so many buildings that are vacant and we keep building new and I can't figure out why," another Quincy resident said with frustration.

    A hub for Homegrown businesses and a strong developing workforce; but in the last decade, the city has seen large employers cut staff, close, or relocate.

    Take the old TGI-Fridays, now-turned-IHOP.

    To hear that building's owner tell it now, the Gem City still has its jewels.

    "I was on vacation, I was at the Lake of the Ozarks and I met a couple from Quincy. We were talking to them and they said you outta put a restaurant in Quincy. I said where's Quincy because I didn't know where it was. So I came back through and I came down Broadway I noticed all the traffic. I went back, got my realtor, came back and got this location."

    Now, IHOP Franchisee Larry McDonald is cashing in with the highest opening week the chain has ever seen in Illinois. His Quincy location raked in more than 120,000 dollars in its first week.

    It's a prime example: a new business revamps a vacant spot, wins over the community, the money flows, and the local economy grows.

    But what about the city's vacant box stores?

    Quincy is learning re-purposing large retail space isn't easy.

    Quincy Medical Group is working to convert the former Bergner's at the Quincy Mall into an outpatient surgical center. Just last week, The Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board said the space doesn't fit the required needs of a surgical center.

    "We want this building full," Director of City Planning and Development Chuck Bevelheimer said. He added large retailers such as resident's-much-longed-for-Target are putting the brakes on expansion, focusing instead on downsizing to fit in more urban markets, while combating online shopping.

    Meanwhile, traditional malls and strip malls alike have to get creative with their vacancies.

    "I think we have to keep an eye on healthcare, the tech sector, entrepreneurship, growing our own, helping our youth understand what they can do and what they can do better, that'st he key," Bevelheimer said.

    And Quincy isn't lacking for places to house such businesses from small offices, to larger facilities; vacant retail spaces can be seen all along Broadway.

    But even last week, yet another property owner asked the city council for a special permit to build yet another three-bay strip mall near 20th and Broadway.

    Right now there are two stores empty at the 30th and Broadway strip mall, Prairie Crossing has three bays open right now, and multiple spaces still at Oak Street Mall near Walmart. They are all empty.

    "They are not looking at the big picture of the city as a whole," Bevelheimer said about property owners building up their land to create more vacant spots. "They are looking at their block, their property, and its location, relationship to the streets."

    McDonald said corporations need to do the same when sizing up Quincy. IHOP turned down his application multiple times.

    "They don't understand the demographics. Quincy only has 40,000 people in the town but outside it has a lot of surrounding areas that feed into this town. This town supports a lot of activity," McDonald shared.

    He's right.

    According to the latest U.S. Census, there are 234,000 plus people in a 69 mile radius around Quincy, and tens of thousands of them can be seen driving down Broadway everyday.

    So why does a store stand vacant? Bevelheimer said it all depends on the developer and the property owner striking a deal to turn that "For Lease" sign over to "Now Open."

    In the last 12 months multiple businesses left the Gem City including:

    In the last 12 months there have been several businesses to move in including:

    • Slumberland and other businesses have moved into the Quincy Mall.
    • McCallisters is currently under construction and will open later this year
    • Firehouse Subs is in the process of filling a vacant location in the Quincy Commons near 36th and Broadway.
    • Little Greek Fresh Grill opened in that same plaza in November
    • In the downtown area, the Red Light Bar and Grill Opened its doors in September.

    A community will welcome any new business that lights up it's open sign, but these joints don't always bring head of household jobs the Gem City craves.

    Bevelheimer told KHQA work is underway to secure grants for the riverfront redevelopment project. That project is slated to be about $20 million dollars.

    Bevelheimer called the riverfront the city's greatest asset and it hasn't been touched.

    There is optimism with the Quincy Mall, despite the latest report on the QMG development.

    Quincy Mall Officials said Thursday they are zeroing in on a new company to open a new theater at the mall.

    These are not head of household jobs, but they are amenities the region enjoys.

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