Commercial Real Estate Market Builds in Columbiana County

SALEM, Ohio – Columbiana County’s commercial real estate market might not be as active as in its more urban neighbors to the north, but real estate professionals report pockets of strong activity nonetheless.

The county market is “real active,” observes John Horvath, broker associate with commercial services at Northwood Realty Services, Poland.

Development around the Home Depot in Salem is among the projects on Horvath’s agenda.

One prospect is a “national gas station/convenience store that is looking at the front parcel” of the site, he says. His agency recently guided the sale of a 1½-acre site near Home Depot that will become the home of a daycare center.

Horvath also worked on a new Dollar General store project and sold a nearby former branch of the Home Savings and Loan Co. in Glenmoor, near East Liverpool.

Depending on location, naked ground by the acre can go for six figures along the state Route 14 corridor where Home Depot and Walmart sit in Salem, according to Horvath. That land can go for $300,000 per acre at the front of a property should it be zoned for use by a restaurant, or $100,000 per acre for a side parcel, he says.

“It’s substantially less as you get away from new development,” Horvath continues. Because of lower demand, downtown Salem, for example, has a higher vacancy rate for existing buildings.

“There’s not a lot of demand for commercial space downtown” as opposed to space east of Salem’s hospital toward the Home Depot area, he says. In Salem’s downtown, commercial lease rates range from $5 to $7 per square foot as opposed to $10 to $12 per foot farther out.

“And the national tenants are going to gravitate to the newly developed areas. That’s historically how it’s been,” Horvath says.

Real estate development is surging nationally and in Columbiana County contractors report “so much work that’s on the roster that they’re getting to the point where they can’t take any new projects on because of the existing projects that they’re committed to,” Horvath says.

Among the recent projects in the county are work at Salem Regional Health System and a new Tim Horton’s in Calcutta.

“People are more comfortable with the economy,” Horvath says. “The confidence level of people who have new projects has increased and they’re in a position where they’re more comfortable to go ahead.” In addition, banks appear “more receptive to lending,” he notes.

There are some “nice little communities” in the county, remarks Bill Kutlick, broker at Kutlick Realty LLC, Boardman.

“It’s nothing like Cleveland or Pittsburgh but there is some residential growth,” Kutlick continues. The Columbiana County Port Authority has done “a great job in bringing industry” to the county, he notes.

Kutlick reports most of his firm’s activity is focused in the Calcutta area.

“Calcutta is a lot larger trade area than, for example, Salem,” pulling in different types of retailers than in that city, he says. Where trade areas are often defined in concentric rings, Calcutta’s is “more of a polygon,” he observes. “It goes to a lot of the smaller little towns that surround the Calcutta market.”

Kutlick recently listed 30 acres just off the Route 11 ramp at Route 7. “We’re starting to work on that for a retail property,” he says.

Elsewhere in the county, Oakmont Plaza in the city of Columbiana has no vacancies although Kutlick has an outparcel there, he reports.

There is also a “pretty good-sized project” underway at the southeastern quadrant of routes 7 and 14, and Prima Health Care is developing medical offices in that area.

Columbiana County has “hot spots and cold spots,” Kutlick says, with rates along Route 170 in Calcutta higher in some cases than in Boardman. In the city of Columbiana, property on Route 14 rents in the range of $10 or $12 per square foot. “If you get into new construction it’s going to be obviously more,” he remarks.

Michael Mancuso, executive director of the Salem Area Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, reports he spent much of last summer working on sites in the city’s industrial park, both existing buildings and raw land.

“I’ve got one inquiry right now for a fairly large industrial site,” he says, “and we are vetting properties for that right now.”

The Salem Utilities Commission recently approved moving ahead on a project to provide sewer service to a 30-acre lot at the lower end of the city, Mancuso reports. His organization is working to secure a grant to open up additional industrial land for development.

Beyond Salem, industrial property in Leetonia has been “very busy,” and the port authority has been busy with several East Liverpool sites, Mancuso says. The New Castle School of Trades is moving ahead on an $8 million campus in downtown East Liverpool “and there was just news of a company that is going to take out options from the East Liverpool [Community Improvement Corp.] on another industrial building,” he says.

Activity is driven by “a lot of different things,” primarily the incentives offered, Mancuso says. Developers look at issues such as cost of living, quality of life, school systems and even health care, he notes.

To say what industrial properties will sell or lease for is a “tough” question to answer, Mancuso says. “It’s hard to say what a standard price is,” he remarks, with rates varying based on location and infrastructure.

Pictured: Naked properties on state Route 14 through Salem near The Home Depot can go for as much as $300,000 per acre at the front of sites, with prices dropping closer to downtown.

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