Kyle Bennett, director of tourism and visitors center operations, said there is only one vacant space left in the core downtown area.
“It’s a unique issue to have,” Bennett said Monday. “We’re basically out of space.”
While the downtown Woodstock core area has no strict borders, Woodstock’s Office of Economic Development Director Brian Stockton said the area includes Main, Chambers and East Main streets in downtown Woodstock, as well as the shopping strip beside the Park at City Center.
Stockton said the economy’s recovery is partly responsible for the city’s high occupancy, but the main reason for Woodstock’s packed downtown is because of the area’s vibrant activity.
“Since about 2010, we’ve had very low vacancy rate, so it’s been pretty full for three or four years now,” Stockton said. “People just want their businesses in downtown because so many things are going on here. If it was just the economy, you’d see all the shopping centers out on Highway 92 filled up, too, which you don’t necessarily see.”
Bennett said Woodstock fared better than many cities in 2008. During bad economic times, Woodstock continued to thrive, he said.
“Downtown Woodstock was a little different than most cities when the housing market collapsed and the economy really crashed in 2008. Even in the worst years, we still had more businesses open up than close,” Bennett said. “The worst year we had was either 2008 or 2009, and we had 12 businesses close and like, 14 open.”
Space downtown has filled in during the last three or four years, and Bennett said “it’s a very good problem to have.”
“Around 2011 is when the economy in our downtown area started to turn around and we started having dramatically more businesses open than close. So, it’s been a slow process over the last couple years,” Bennett said. “We’ve basically been having a net of 10 new businesses a year for three years in a row, and eventually you’re just going to run out of space.”
Stockton said many businesspeople want to open shops in the downtown core area, but space is an issue.
“We have a lot of walk-in people,” he said, “I have conversations with people on a daily basis, of them wanting to be in downtown.”
Stockton said the residential projects have been popular lately, but there may be more space for businesses coming in the future.
“There are a couple projects that are being actively worked on that may add some retail and restaurant space downtown,” he said.
Bennett said the seemingly vacant spaces in the core of downtown are either in, or about to start, their build-out phases.
“The only true vacant spot right on Main Street now is the building where Woodstock Art and Glass was,” Bennett said. “They subdivided out three spaces, and once the seafood restaurant opens up there’ll only be the middle spot in the building that will be open. Everything else in the downtown core will be full.”
Stockton said residents and downtown visitors can look forward to the new restaurant, Reel Seafood, along with other new businesses scheduled to open up this year.
A new women’s boutique is moving into the old Bridal Exchange building, and another business, Village Market, has an active building permit and is expected to open sometime in February, Stockton said.