Commercial vacancy rate increases, giving Lubbock new eyesores - FOX34 Lubbock

Commercial vacancy rate increases, giving Lubbock new eyesores

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Driving around town, It is noticeable. Lubbock has it's fair share of abandoned or vacant buildings. They sit there empty, often in various stages of decay, with growing weeds and boarded windows. They are an eyesore and a black eye for the city. 

Stuart Walker, the city's code administration director said buildings can sit there indefinitely as long as it stays secured. Enforcers will only intervene if the building is broken into, opening it to squatters.

"An open or accessible building is an imminent threat to health and safety," Walker said. "We don't want vagrants, children, or infectors of disease getting into the building and using it as habitat, so we try to get those sealed up, as quickly as possible." 

Walker said the city will start a structural standards court case, determining whether the building needs repairs or in some extreme cases, demolition. 

"We just did the Villa," Walker said. "We did an emergency demo on that because of the fire damage."

For buildings that are not a direct danger to the public, codes is not responsible for upkeep.

"It all goes back to the property owner," Walker said. "The property owner is responsible for the property, whether it's occupied or it's vacant." 

John Osborne, CEO of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance said empty buildings can affect our economy.

"Everyone wants our city to look the nicest and put the best foot forward," Osborne said. "Especially when you're trying to attract more people to come to our community whether they want to live here or if they want to come and visit here." 

Osborne said there are many factors that contribute to these building vacancies. 

"It could be because it's not a good place for the business to be operating, not profitable or they're not able to fund the workers that they need, make the sales that they need to," Osborne said. "Sometimes it's actually though a positive thing, from the stand point of maybe the buildings too small or businesses keep growing too much so they're having to vacate to find a bigger property." 

For the retail market, real estate research firm, "Co-Star" reported Lubbock's vacancy increased from 4.5 percent in the beginning of 2017 to 4.8 percent by the end. Osborne said do not be alarmed. 
 
"We do have a very very low vacancy rates, single digits in retail properties," Osborne said. "Even with the growth of new buildings out on Milwaukee, Slide, or any of those higher growth areas, Canyon west area, The West End, even with all those new buildings coming on line, we still remain very low vacancy rates." 

Some argue, we have too many restaurants causing some seemingly popular businesses like Campisis to close. Osborne disagrees. 

"We actually receive about 6 million visitors a year and if you took out those visitors, we only have a population base of just over 300,000 in our county," Osborne said. 

That has increased by 30 percent since 2009.

"As a result of that, we are able to handle more restaurants, more shopping and its one reason why the number of attractions in our community has been able to grow is because we do supplement all 300,000 that live in our community with 6 million visitors," Osborne said.

Osborne said many property owners only do the minimal upkeep, reluctant to invest money they will not get back. For those who argue we should just get rid of those vacant buildings, Walker said that is not on the city's agenda. 

"If something is still viable to be occupied, our goal isn't to go tear it down, we'd rather have an operating business," Walker said. 

There are several violations you can report. If the weeds are more than 8 inches high throughout the lot, if it is full of debris, illegal dumping, or unsanitary waste. You can report those violations here

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