Long Island Index: Commercial Vacancy Reduced as LI Recovers from Recession

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A report and interactive map released by the Long Island Index shows a decline in empty commercial buildings in Long Island’s downtown areas.

The Long Island Index, a project of the nonprofit Rauch Foundation, released a report and interactive map yesterday detailing the state of downtown areas across Long Island.

Retail data gathered from the CoStar group revealed that vacancy rates on the Island’s main streets and commercial centers have begun to recover from the recession of 2008 and even beat out the national average. Long Island as a whole saw a decline to 5.1% vacancy in 2013, compared with 5.5% in 2012, and beat out the national average of 6.6% for last year.

Several smaller towns saw some of the greatest gains in reducing their vacancy rates. Cold Spring Harbor has had a business in all 21 of its downtown commercial buildings since 2012, despite vacancy rates of 12.2% in 2009 and 14.8% in 2010. Greenvale, which has 46 commercial buildings in its downtown area, dropped from 2.9% vacancy in 2012 to 2.5% in 2013 after a rate of 7.9% in 2009; Stony Brook is now down to 0.3% following a high of 8.8% in 2008.

Larger towns have made some progress as well; Huntington’s vacancy rate came down to 2.9% of its 417 buildings last year after hovering around 4.2% in 2012 and 2009. Amityville dropped more than half a percent to a total of 6.0% vacancy from 2012 to 2013 after a high of 8.5% in 2011, and Bay Shore dropped a full percentage year-over-year to 3.4% after a 6.0% rate in 2009.

Greenport (3.0%) and Hempstead (5.7%) actually saw their number of vacancies increase from the year prior, but both are faring substantially better than they were near the onset of the recession. Hempstead faced a rate of 9.4% in 2009; Greenport was at 8.7% in 2009 and was hit even harder in 2007 when 12.6% of its commercial buildings were unoccupied.

Hicksville (4.6%) and Babylon (5.7%) stayed steady between last year and the year prior, but both are still more active than they were several years ago. Hicksville had a rate of 8.6% in 2007 and over a tenth of Babylon’s buildings were empty in 2006.

“Long Island’s downtowns–with their appeal, growth potential and, in many cases, transit access–are key to our future economic prosperity,” said Nancy Rauch Douzinas, President of the Rauch Foundation. “Understanding and developing them is crucial to a better future for Long Island.”

The drop in vacancy rates a positive indicator of economic progress on the Island, but the Long Island Index warns that all signs are as encouraging. While vacancy rates may be well below the national average, development of new construction is significantly lower here than in other suburban areas.

[Source: Long Island Index]

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