Walkersville continues to endure vacant commercial properties, and the problems associated with those properties. The concentration of the problems lies on the western end of Walkersville’s commercial districts. Some of these properties have sat vacant for decades. Most have sat vacant for more than a decade, and most are owned by one company.
The majority of the properties are part of Walkers Village Center, an 86,231 square foot shopping center. Anchored by Safeway, the shopping center provides a dry-cleaner, a veterinarian’s office, a Chinese restaurant, a flooring store, Subway, Dollar Kingdom, a liquor store, a hair salon, Village Tavern, a bakery, CVS, a nail salon, and a reptile supply store. Over 30,000 square feet of retail space sits vacant in this shopping center. Walkers Village LLC, a subsidiary of Tomarchio Enterprises of Glenelg, Maryland, owns the shopping center.
A former bank, former Burger King, and many empty units fill the shopping center. The bank and Burger King closed in the 1990’s. The Burger King became a Japanese restaurant, but closed less than a year later. The bank, a 2,500 square foot building, is for lease at $45,000 per year. The restaurant, a 3,350 square foot building costs $60,300 per year.
The first floor of 100 Walkers Village Way has remained empty for most of the building’s twenty-eight years. For a short time, Curves and later Jackson Hewitt occupied the first small unit. Today, the entire first floor which claims to have been medical offices sits vacant and filled with black mold. Anyone looking at leasing the properties may be concerned with the amount of mold on the walls and moisture clinging to the windows and doors on a brisk 53° October day. The first floor spaces amount to 9,545 square feet and lease for nearly $115,000 per year.
The second floor of this building has not fared much better in maintaining tenants. Holly Nails has been the only constant in the building, but has changed management at least once. A tanning salon moved out over rent increases. That spot temporarily housed Glade Valley AllSports after it left a West Frederick Street location it occupied for years. Glade Valley AllSports appears to have gone out of business all together. Liberty Copy Center and Curves were located in the building, but moved out several years ago. Today, a store selling reptile pet supplies is the only tenant to share the building with Holly Nails. Tomarchio Enterprises is asking $27,000 per year to lease the vacant space.
In the main section of the shopping center, there has been more stability. CVS anchors this section of the shopping center. Tomarchio Enterprises announced plans during town meetings to move the CVS across MD 194 to a planned Walkers Village II, but it remains in its original location. Though it has not moved, the space for CVS is listed as available for lease by the realtor. The space is advertised as 11,995 square feet for $215,910 per year.
The CVS space for lease may have something to do with an ongoing dispute about needed repairs to the store’s heating and air conditioning system. The store has been running portable air conditioners all summer. Store employees noted that the landlord and CVS have been negotiating the situation.
A bakery sits in a unit that was briefly a carry-out restaurant after serving as a pizza place for years. Though the bakery’s posted hours indicated they would be opened, the shop was closed during our visit.
Village Tavern restaurant and Village Way Liquors provide the most stability. Both have been in the shopping center since the beginning.
David’s Hair Salon and Dollar Kingdom also remain strong tenants. Dollar Kingdom’s owner, Alberto Columba, threatened to leave the shopping center due to high rent two years ago. While he did not disclose his lease arrangements, he remains open.
Subway and Walkers Flooring moved to the shopping center just before Mr. Fredric Tomarchio, a principal of Tomarchio Enterprises, gave the shopping center a face-lift he says cost $1,000,000 in 2009. The two business occupy spots that were a popular craft store and a frozen dessert business. Though Walkers Floors appears to be open, the space is listed as available for $28,800 per year.
Liberty Tax Service moved out of a space that had occupied a computer repair service and a dance studio in the past. A sign taped to the door asks clients to call a phone number for tax support. This spot is also listed for $28,800 per year.
China Wok has been another stable tenant over the years.
Walkersville’s only video store closed about ten years ago according to shoppers’ best guesses. It remains empty and in nearly the same state as when it closed. The property is listed for lease at $44,280 per year.
A vet’s office and dry cleaner round out the businesses that remain and have been stable tenants over the years.
As for all the vacancies, the economy and new shopping centers in Frederick receive Mr. Tomarchio’s blame. His tenants and former tenants disagree. They anonymously point to high rent and lack of interest from their landlord. Residents seem to share the opinion of the tenants; they blame high rent and a failure to make the shopping center attractive to businesses.
While we perused the shopping center, residents pointed out some examples of the blight that keeps businesses away. “Trash cans overflow all of the time,” according to Jamie, who was picking up a sub at Subway. In fact, we visisted the shopping center and photographed the same trash can on four different days to see for ourselves. Sure enough, it was always a mess.
During a visit, one can watched folks dumpster diving. We saw graffiti everywhere, water leaks, debris, rust, and disrepair. Even the shopping center’s sign looks old, sad, and uninviting. One tenant told us that they were told the sign would be replaced with a digital sign when they all paid $300 per letter for their new signs. That has not happened.