Empty big box stores get new lease on life

8:17 PM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - Big box store closings were a sign of a struggling national economy, but optimism is growing as some of those spaces start to fill up with new business.

Four years ago nearly to the day, Circuit City stores across the Twin Cities had their final sales.

A couple of years after that, Ultimate Electronics stores closed. Over the years, other businesses also failed which left some very large spaces empty, until now.

"We went from 3,800 square feet to over 15,000 now," smiled West Marina's Brandon Gollnow.

West Marine has made the old Ultimate Electronics location in Minnetonka its new home. The building was fully repurposed from top to bottom and it's filled with more boat stuff than West Marine has ever had.

Down the road in Roseville an old Circuit City is now a Planet Fitness. That building is just one of several other locations that took something old and made it new again.

Over on the east side in Maplewood, you can't even tell a new LA Fitness was an old electronics store.

After years of sitting empty, all of the buildings once again have tenants and business is thriving, but despite what appears to be a potential big box store economic recovery, those in the business say it's going to take a little bit more.

A look at what's happening in Bloomington is a good example. While Bloomington's old Circuit City is now a successful Trader Joe's. Across the way, an old Comp USA still waits for its new tenant, an indication things haven't rebounded everywhere.

Still, there's plenty of optimism.

"Definitely improving the economy," said Gollnow. "We've seen it over the last couple of season's the economy is starting to pick back up."

That said, until all of the old spots are filled, we are nowhere close to building new, which would be a more truthful sign of a fuller economic recovery.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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