The national retail market has seen uniform changes over the past several years in the move from enclosed malls to open and more inviting concepts. In no state in the Northeast has this trend taken hold more firmly than in Pennsylvania. Throughout the state, and especially in the counties that constitute northeastern Pennsylvania, the development of lifestyle centers — and the retail market in general — has grown markedly. Northeastern Pennsylvania, consisting of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wyoming, Susquehanna, Pike, Monroe and Columbia counties, is swathed in retail activity, mostly driven by demand for national retailers, according to John Cognetti, president of Scranton, Pennsylvania-based Hinerfeld Realty Company.

“[Northeastern Pennsylvania] continues to change with the growth in the Pocono region and demand for national retail in the heavily populated Scranton/Wilkes-Barre corridor,” says Cognetti. The influx in national retailers is a result of increased demand from the region’s substantial population. Removed from the draw of the sizeable retail market in Philadelphia and its surrounding metro area, there was a significant need for large retailers in the more densely inhabited areas within northeastern Pennsylvania, namely the aforementioned cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.

A majority of the retail activity is focused in Lackawanna County in Dickson City and Moosic; off Interstate 81 around Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County; and in spots in Monroe and Columbia counties. Prominent developers in the region include Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, W/S Development Associates and Keystone Property Associates.

Notable retail activity in the region includes the sale of the former Wal-Mart on Route 309 in Wilkes-Barre for the development of a Kohl’s — the retailer’s first foray into the area; the planned new construction of another Kohl’s on Commerce Drive in Dickson City; plans for a new Wal-Mart Supercenter in Pittston Township in Luzerne County; and the opening of a Wal-Mart Supercenter and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse at Interstate 80 near Columbia Mall in Columbia County. Some retail centers underway include Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate’s The Shoppes at Montage, a lifestyle center in Moosic; a planned new lifestyle center on routes 611 and 33 off I-80 in Monroe County; and an outlet development in planning on Route 209, also in Monroe.

According to Cognetti, the impact of all this activity will manifest by creating direct competition for the regional malls and applying new pressure on supermarkets by way of Wal-Mart’s increased presence. “Another issue to watch is the introduction of national retailers to submarkets in the region impacting the local retailers,” he adds. Competition is strong, with a number of new retailers seeking to enter the market at multiple sites. Vacancy rates are less than 10 percent. This low vacancy is leading major retailers to seek infill locations throughout the region, notes Cognetti, with big box, lifestyle, and free-standing retailers filling in the submarkets.

Recently, there has been significant interest form the investment community in retail properties in northeastern Pennsylvania. “Net-leased, free-standing retail, community and strip centers, turn-around property, neighborhood centers, and regional malls have been turning over in the past 4 years,” Cognetti says. With increased interest from national retailers — as well as from national investors — the retail sector in northeastern Pennsylvania is poised for continued and sustained growth.

©2005 France Publications, Inc. Duplication or reproduction of this article not permitted without authorization from France Publications, Inc. For information on reprints of this article contact Barbara Sherer at (630) 554-6054.

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