Browning set to start retail project; another in works

Browning Investments is close to breaking ground on a small retail strip center on West 86th Street in front of St. Vincent Hospital and is in the early stages of planning a larger retail center at 131st and Meridian streets.

It’s been several years since Browning, a longtime local developer, has tackled a retail project. “I can’t remember the last time,” said Jamie Browning, the company’s vice president of real estate development.

That will change in the second quarter when the firm begins construction of an 8,900-square-foot retail strip that will replace a vacant Peoples Bank branch at the southeast corner of 86th Street and Harcourt Road. The $1.9-million project will have room for three or four retail tenants.

The site is owned by the hospital. The developer, which has it under contract and expects to close on the purchase soon, anticipates the project will be ready for tenants by the fourth quarter.

Browning said the site in front of the hospital was too good to pass up in spite of what has been a poor climate for retail development. He said the firm is working with a few banks interested in financing the deal.

The company is simultaneously trying to put together a deal for a 30,000-square-foot retail center at 131st and Meridian, adjacent to a surgery center the developer is building for Indiana Spine Group. Browning said his firm owns the four-acre site where the retail center is to be built but doesn’t have a timetable or other details firmed up.

Donna Hovey, a retail broker with CB Richard Ellis, said both the 86th Street and 131st Street locations can accommodate more retail space because they have dense daytime populations.

“You can make the case it’s an underserved market,” Hovey said of the site in front of St. Vincent. “You can’t see any retail from the front door of the hospital.” Likewise, there’s not much available inventory near 131st Street and Meridian, Hovey said.

As for the retail market in general, Hovey said there are still plenty of opportunities for deals to fall apart, primarily because of financing, but overall conditions are much better than last year.

Tenants are looking for space, she said. “The level of activity has picked up dramatically.”

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