2011 showed further signs of stabilization. Livermore, which had seen lack-luster leasing in the previous years finally caught a break with the addition of PetCo, TJ Maxx, and Big Lots at the 580 Plaza on First Street. Casino 580 and Western Dental also signed long-term leases. Pleasanton has had great success with its newest construction project, Pleasanton Gateway, a Safeway anchored retail center on Bernal Avenue. New tenants at the center include: The Habit Burger, Baja Fresh, Panda Express, The UPS Store, Bagel Street Café, and Wells Fargo. Target opened a new location in East Dublin and will act as an anchor in the Fallon Gateway center which is now under construction. Bj’s Brewhouse is the first tenant to sign a lease in the retail center which will be open closer to summer.
Pleasanton and Livermore both experienced exceptional leasing activity in the downtown areas. Pleasanton started the year with about four percent vacancy and ended the year at just over two percent. A big factor being the return of Domus, the 10,000-square foot home goods store left downtown in 2009 and returned exactly two years later. Livermore’s downtown also had a huge reduction in terms of vacancy. Livermore started the year at twelve and a half percent and ended at just over four and one half percent. In 2011 about 30,000 square feet of new deals were completed in downtown Livermore. A huge part of the leasing activity was new restaurants, wine bars, and other food users looking to capitalize from the vibrant downtown which has become a nightlife and entertainment hot spot.
We are now well into 2012 and already seeing trends and up-ticking activity. Most of the reports our retail team have read regarding the retail sector of commercial real estate indicate that we will see continued improvement and even rising rental rates in 2012. I believe this year could be a turning point for the Tri-Valley. We are going to see some needed and some controversial new additions including: Paragon Outlets in Livermore, Wal-Mart Grocery in Pleasanton and San Ramon, and Walgreens in downtown Livermore. We have been quite lucky through the downturn. When we did have excessive vacancy it was back-filled rather quickly; there are many communities across the state and nation who have yet to see this stabilization. Despite this, the Tri-Valley has lacked the “new faces” – chains often driven by a franchisee. For that matter we have not seen much new growth with the “Mom & Pop” shops which are incredibly important to healthy community