Jay Lurie of The Real Estate Center in Asheville, who represents the landlord in a potential lease agreement for Anthropologie, confirmed Friday afternoon that Anthropologie is considering leasing 8,400 square feet of ground-level space on Lexington Avenue next door to the Lexington Avenue Brewery. The space is currently under renovation by Falcon Construction. There’s currently no signed lease agreement, buy Lurie said he’s confident one will be in place soon.
Some 3,500 square feet of space on the second floor above Anthropologie is being designed for office space and will come on the market before the end of the year, Lurie said.
Anthropologie, a Philadelphia-based store owned by Urban Outfitters, sells women’s clothes and accessories and has been steadily expanding. From a July 7 story about Urban Outfitters at Forbes.com:
At the end of 2014, Urban Outfitters had 234 stores operational for its namesake brand, 196 stores for Anthropologie and 98 for Free People and other brands combined. Currently, we project these figures to increase to 339, 265, and 217, respectively over the next five-six years. However, for the scenario under discussion, we lower Urban Outfitters’ store count at the end of our forecast horizon to 300, and Anthropologie’s store count to 242. We keep Free People’s store count forecast unchanged because the brand is in its growth phase and its expansion is unlikely to slow down.
Urban Outfitters opened in downtown Asheville five years ago at the corner of Haywood and College streets. The company turned an aging CVS drug store into a two-level retail outlet selling clothes and accessories. Two years ago, Anthropologie negotiated on leasing space in the old S&W building on Patton Avenue in downtown, but that deal fell apart.
Urban’s opening in downtown triggered an outcry among some local shop owners, who responded by creating the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, a successful “buy local” program in Asheville. The “Go Local” program has pushed for living wages and raised thousands of dollars for local schools, in addition throwing its weight behind the buy local campaign.
In a separate but related event, the Asheville Downtown Commission heard from a handful of downtown business owners who urged the city advisory board to act to stop the flow of chains into downtown, which is currently ground zero for a new hotel building boom.
Bob Carr, owner of Tops for Shoes on Lexington Avenue, said the “rumor of a national chain” opening in the neighborhood had him worried about protecting the eclectic avenue filled with independent restaurants and shops. He urged the board to start a conversation about managing future growth. “If the conversation hasn’t started, it needs to,” he said.
Dean Peterson, a 30-year employee of Carr’s at Tops, told the board that “we want to keep the vibe of downtown that we have.”
Franzi Charen, owner of Hip Replacements on Lexington and the founder of Asheville Grown, said chains drive up rental rates and other costs, which in turn forces out small business owners. She asked the commission to consider capping store sizing and backing programs that offer incentives to local independents.
Evar Hecht, the owner of Paul Taylor Sandals on nearby Wall Street and the husband of commission member Rebecca Hecht (she owns Adorn Salon on College Street), echoed the earlier sentiments. “We’re getting to the point where the independent small business model won’t work in downtown,” he said.
Rebecca Hecht said the Downtown Commission should create a subcommittee to begin studying what actions it might recommend. Board members agreed and quickly offered up ideas such as helping business owners offset the cost of downtown parking, defining just what a “chain” is and looking at what communities around the country have done.
Board member Adrian Vassallo, who is head of the Asheville Downtown Association, said the association is eager to help lead the discussion, adding that one idea the association discussed was helping downtown land owners put their property in land conservancies, which could limit development.