Despite some areas of town with obvious empty storefronts, Brookline's business scene is actually more vibrant than it was last year--but only just.
In a report delivered by Economic Development Planner Andy Martineau at Tuesday night's Board of Selectmen's meeting, he says that the vacancy rate for storefronts is about 0.7 percent less than last summer. Vacancy townwide, according to the report, is now 5.2 percent.
"Overall, the vacancy rate was encouraging. It shows Brookline is keeping pace with other Massachusetts communities." Martineau noted, "We're pleased with that."
2012 is the third year in the row with declines from 2009's five year high of 7.1 percent townwide.
Breaking down data to examine the various business neighborhoods, Coolidge Corner is showing a big decline from 5.1 percent to 1.9 percent--in spite of the empty storefronts in the Durgin Garage. While Brookline Village's rate remains high, 10.2 percent, Martineau believes this is connected to construction on Brookline Place.
The report also addressed recent concerns about service use businesses--such as banks--taking over certain neighborhoods and diminishing the vibrancy. According to a survey, the percentage of service use businesses has decreased by 0.7 percent, while retail has increased by 0.7 percent.
"The data shows they [service use businesses] aren’t necessarily taking over retail areas," Martineau said.
Martineau explained that the service use rate is now the same as it was in 2009, which was used as a benchmark in part because of the high vacancy rate, but also because it marked the worst of the recession.
Chain stores--defined by Martineau as a business with more than nine businesses--are also down by 0.9 percent to 22.8 percent in town. He added that a national main streets association estimates that a percentage of chains below 50 percent is highly unusual today.