Officials seek to rejuvenate north end of popular shopping center

1890 Ranch remains fully occupied near front facing FM 1431

A new leasing agent will seek to end a rash of tenant turnover on the north end of 1890 Ranch shopping center in Cedar Park.

Dean Vandergriff, a principal for United Commercial Realty, was assigned in mid-May by the shopping center's owners, Retail Properties of America Inc., to market vacant sites to potential new tenants. In total, he is responsible for filling up to 30,000 square feet of retail space, much of which became vacant in the past year due to business closings and relocations.

The biggest reason behind the tenant troubles, he said, has been the lack of compatible businesses on the back side of 1890 Ranch where most vacancies are located.

"You can't just go back there with a brand and open the doors and hope it works out," Vandergriff said. "You need the right concept that will draw people and build off the energy already back there."

For instance, Vandergriff said more uses geared toward parents, children and service workers would help target Cedar Park's limited daytime population. He also suggested adding more local businesses that already bring strong regional followings.

Archiver's relocated last June from Lakeline Mall to the back end of 1890 Ranch. Store Manager Susan Delgado said the majority of businesses to close since Archiver's arrival were restaurants.

"Which is really sad for us because that's where all our customers go to eat," Delgado said. "That's why we love this spot."

But what was great for customers was not necessarily good for business owners, said Clay Rule, owner of Spicy Pickle, which closed its 1890 Ranch location in April.

"The economy cannot stand the amount of restaurants they have put into the area," Rule said. "My store did very well for a long time, and to see it drop like it did so quickly was pretty disheartening."

Complicating matters, Rule said, was the change in ownership in late 2011 when RPAI took over 1890 Ranch from Endeavor Real Estate Group.

"When you're paying 2007 rent in 2013, it's tough to make it," he said, explaining how he was unable to renegotiate rent during periodic downfalls in business.

Leif Johnson, owner of Nothing Bundt Cakes, said he has was recently asked to pay more in monthly rent. But after four years of double-digit growth, he said a dramatic decline in foot traffic has caused his business to decrease by the same rate this year.

"I'm in the process of looking to relocate because it's been such a struggle," Johnson said. "It doesn't make sense for us to pay more rent when our sales are declining."

Johnson has not ruled out remaining at 1890 Ranch if he is able to renegotiate his lease before his existing contract expires at the end of August. So far, he said he has benefited from the arrival of Vandergriff, who has helped coordinate negotiations.

"We'll see if [UCR is] helpful," he said. "They have a more realistic view so far."

Vandergriff said added signage should help direct more customers to the back end of the shopping center, where rent is 25 percent cheaper than the front.

"I think that helps, but I think at the end of the day it's about getting the right retailers there," he said.

There are six to eight retailers interested in relocating to the shopping center, Vandergriff said, although no new businesses could be announced by Community Impact Newspaper's deadline. He said he is confident the empty spaces will be filled.

"This is the flagship product for Cedar Park and the surrounding areas," he said.

By Joe Lanane
Joe Lanane’s career is rooted in community journalism, having worked for a variety of Midwest-area publications before landing south of the Mason-Dixon line in 2011 as the Stillwater News-Press news editor. He arrived at Community Impact Newspaper in 2012, gaining experience as editor of the company’s second-oldest publication in Leander/Cedar Park. He eventually became Central Austin editor, covering City Hall and the urban core of the city. Lanane leveraged that experience to become Austin managing editor in 2016. He managed eight Central Texas editions from Georgetown to San Marcos. Working from company headquarters, Lanane also became heavily involved in enacting corporate-wide editorial improvements. In 2017, Lanane was promoted to executive editor, overseeing editorial operations throughout the company. The Illinois native received his bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and his journalism master’s degree from Ball State University.