Sixty percent of the commercial and retail space located in Elkins and just outside the city is under-utilized, according to a recent study completed by the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce.
Former ERCCC Executive Director Kate Reed and her intern, Adam Posey, unveiled the first ever Randolph County Building Inventory - a project that's been two years in the making - at Wednesday's ERCCC quarterly luncheon meeting.
Forty businesses located in downtown Elkins and along the Beverly Five-lane participated in the survey, the purpose of which is to create an up-to-date database of commercial or retail space available for rent.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Katie Kuba
Former Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Director Kate Reed discusses the Randolph County Building Inventory, a study of commercial space that was unveiled at the Chamber’s quarterly meeting Wednesday.
"The whole idea is to have an inventory of the retail and commercial space that's vacant or occupied," Reed said. "We want data on those properties to be streamlined so that when we have a potential investor or opportunity for county planning, that information is easily available."
Posey, who presented the findings to Chamber members, said the Randolph County Building Inventory collected information about property - totalling 545,497 square feet - owned by 28 people.
Thirty-five businesses responded to a question about whether their property was occupied or vacant. From those responses, Posey was able to determine that 40 percent of the total space is occupied, 20 percent is only partially occupied and 40 percent is for rent.
"We were a little surprised to learn that 60 percent of the space is under-utilized," Posey said. He also noted that of the space available for rent, 53 percent is owned by just two people and 47 percent is owned by the other 26 property holders.
According to information from 11 businesses that responded to a question about the cost of rent, Posey calculated the average rent at $706.
Six of those 11 businesses priced their rent at under $700, Posey said.
"This is a very good snapshot, a very good sample," he said, "but needs to be expanded upon and improved before it could be useful to the town."
The primary obstacle the Chamber encountered when conducting the survey was skepticism on the part of property owners whose buildings are located in the far reaches of the county.
As the project proceeds, the Chambers and other groups it collaborates with need to "rearticulate" the project's purpose so property owners will be less wary, said Grant Turner, an Americorps VISTA with the Woodlands Development Group who also worked on the inventory.
"We need to articulate just why it is (property owners) should care about the study," Turner said. "We need to make the major goal concrete and discuss what it will be used for."
Reed said the inventory is intended to evolve, as more properties throughout the county are added. She predicted that the inventory will be accessible online within one to two months.
"It's not stagnant; it's a living site we hope to continue to build upon," she said. "We hope it will continue as a collaboration and eventually be completed."
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.