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Vacant Grocery Stores in Metro Phoenix Find New Uses

Photo credit: Mark Henle/The Republic

Photo credit: Mark Henle/The Republic

By Parker Leavitt for The Arizona Republic

Like tender saplings inching skyward years after a wildfire, creative new uses like schools, entertainment centers and health clubs are sprouting up in former grocery stores across metro Phoenix, bringing new life to empty buildings that often become community eyesores.

The redevelopment efforts are helping to absorb some of the Valley’s vast amounts of vacant commercial space while revitalizing recession-ravaged shopping centers that lost anchor tenants when supermarkets like Bashas’ and Albertsons went dark.

Void of all visible life just a few months ago, the loading dock behind a former Albertsons grocery store in Gilbert is once again bustling with activity — only now, parents are dropping off children at a charter school where workers once moved bulk goods.

An aging Mesa strip mall has struggled since losing Bashas’ in 2009, but could soon get a major facelift as Banner Health looks to re-use the buildings for a “medical mall” with labs and doctors’ offices.

Entertainment venues have replaced two former Bashas’ locations in north and south Gilbert, where kids can bowl and play arcade games in the places shoppers used to browse aisles of food.

From Phoenix to Glendale to Mesa, developers are seizing a unique opportunity to renovate the empty spaces at a lower cost than building new. Meanwhile, they’re taking advantage of plentiful parking and good locations, typically near major intersections.

While creative redevelopment in sluggish shopping centers is not entirely new, the concept seems to be picking up steam, real-estate mogul Michael Pollack said. It’s impossible to say exactly how many former grocery stores have been snatched up for redevelopment, but examples dot the entire Valley.

Read more at The Arizona Republic