If you are looking to open a business in a place like downtown Brunswick, on-site parking may become an important consideration in order to keep customers from choosing a competitor with better access.

A lot of effort is put into developing a vibrant and active downtown. We all like to see vacant storefronts being occupied by a new and exciting business. The sight of customers bringing commerce to an area supporting our local businesses is one that brings a continued sense of hope for some and for others, inspiration.

It has always been a question for me, personally and professionally, what factors contribute to the success of a local business. Ask any shop owner and they will agree, ease of access is most certainly on the list of factors.

Along Maine Street in downtown Brunswick, ease of access seems to mean access to parking either onsite or in adjacent to public parking lots.

As the economy starts to find its footing, more storefronts are showing signs of life. In fact, a quick walk through the downtown area and you will see very little vacant retail space — less than 5 percent in the immediate downtown area. There has been particular interest in restaurant space, as the number of restaurants in the downtown area has grown over the past few years.

It is also interesting to note that, with steady demand for retail space in the market, rental rates have only increased moderately, typically following a standard commercial leasing structure of 2.5 percent to 3 percent annual increases intended to follow the average change in the Consumer Price Index.

Based on a review of survey data, securing parking for your customers will likely come at a premium. Rental rates for properties with access to customer parking has continued to increase without significant faltering in demand throughout the latest economic downturn.

Based on a survey conducted by C-Prime Valuation Group, these rental rates generally range from 35 percent to 85 percent higher than rents for space without access to parking.

Discussions with locally active property owners, investors, developers and shop owners confirm access to parking has significant appeal in the market.

Jim Howard, developer and owner of Priority Real Estate Group, said he would not likely consider purchasing any property that did not offer on-site parking. Such a property would not have enough appeal to attract tenants to his projects. If you’re considering opening a new business or relocating and an existing one, access to parking, how it may affect your exposure and what it’s going to cost you, should be at the top of your priority list.

TOM SIEGEL is the owner of CPrime Valuation Group LLC, a Topsham-based commercial real estate valuation and consultancy firm focused on in-depth market analysis and valuation services. He can be reached at [email protected] The column will appear monthly.

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