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Predictions For 2010

As we enter the new year, I thought it’d be fun to try to predict some of the events that are likely to unfold throughout the year. It will be interesting to see how many of these come true.

I suspect that 2010 will be a status quo kind of year, at least in terms of business expansion. We won’t see any major businesses open in 2010, but I also don’t see any major closings either. Notice I say “major” closings; I do see some closures in 2010, but nothing on the scale of a big-box store.

The biggest developments in 2010 will definitely come from the city itself, with several planned projects moving closer to completion.

The Bobcat Effect

The result of Bobcats closure will determine what kind of year 2010 is.

The result of Bobcat's closure will determine what kind of year 2010 is.

Bobcat’s closure will certainly be felt as the year progresses. When a city’s sixth largest employer suddenly shuts down, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Although some will unquestionably find employment in the region by year-end, many will unfortunately remain unemployed, while others will likely move out of the region to seek employment.

The outcome of Bobcat’s closure will make the greatest impact on how 2010 unfolds, in terms of economic growth.

Extremely Likely

BSC Aquatic Center
The new Aquatic & Wellness Center on the campus of Bismarck State College is expected to open within weeks.

New Elementary School
Bismarck’s newest school, Sunrise Elementary, is scheduled to begin classes this fall. Boundaries have already been set, and the building is nearly complete.

Parking Ramp Construction
Bismarck will almost certainly begin construction on its newest downtown parking garage this summer, becoming the seventh parking garage in downtown Bismarck when completed next year.

College Growth
Regional colleges will certainly see continuing spikes as those out of work return to school to possibly move into another field.

Very Likely

The proposed Civic Center expansion is likely to gain ground in 2010.

The proposed Civic Center expansion is likely to gain ground in 2010.

Civic Center Expansion & Sales Tax Increase
Bismarck’s efforts towards expanding the Civic Center and construct an adjacent hotel will likely move forward, however I do not see any construction actually beginning in 2010. The proposed expansion has yet to be approved, but the city seems committed to proceeding with these planned “improvements”.

The proposed 1% sales tax increase will probably resurface sometime this year, however I see tough opposition coming from residents, enough where the proposal is likely to again be pushed back.

La Quinta Inns & Suites
National hotel operator, La Quinta Inns & Suites, recently announced plans to open a four-story hotel on the former International Stir Fry Restaurant site this summer.

Other Likelihoods

Home Depot Store (closed)

The Home Depot Building will likely remain vacant in 2010, however its sale is imminent.

Home Depot Building
The former Home Depot building will likely remain empty throughout 2010, although it wouldn’t surprise me if an investor buys it at the upcoming auction for possible future use. I don’t expect any big news on what will eventually occupy the big orange box though.

What is my long-term prediction of the former Home Depot building? Its asking price really is quite low for a building that size, the problem is that in this economy, those who can afford such a price aren’t buying like they were 2 or 3 years ago. Home Depot is eager to rid itself of the building quickly as it will ultimately cost more sitting empty than the company may lose in its sale.

That being said, the former Home Depot building will probably be sold soon, however it will be some time before anything new occupies the facility.

Conlin's Furniture Exterior (closed)

Gateway Mall's future looks bleak in 2010, with mounting vacancies and a pending fraud lawsuit.

Gateway Mall
Gateway Mall will continue to struggle as its vacancies approach record highs. Luckily, no major tenants are likely to vacate, but that’s largely because there aren’t many left. I suspect that its biggest vacant spaces, namely the former Conlin’s Furniture and CVS spaces, will remain vacant, despite an announcement last October that Gateway Mall was close to signing a major tenant for a combined 70,000 square feet.

Pinehurst Square
Open for just over three years, Pinehurst Square is already seeing vacancies, partially blamed to its former owner filing for bankruptcy protection in 2008. If any vacant space is to be filled in Bismarck, it is most likely to be filled at the hustling Pinehurst Square, which recently saw the departure of two original tenants: Vlana Vlee and Tuesday Morning. Bismarck’s newest shopping center, now under new ownership, signed a new tenant most recently in October 2009.

Former Wilhelm's / Fleck Motors Showroom

The former Wilhelm's / Fleck Motors site will continue to sit empty.

Other Empty Buildings
Other vacant spaces that will likely remain vacant in 2010 include the former Meriwether’s Restaurant, Hoskins-Meyer Floral, the former Wilhelm & Cedric Theel lots, and Rex TV.

Construction Slowdown
I predict that housing & commercial development will slow considerably in 2010, with apartment vacancies remaining low as troubled homeowners look at downgrading to cut costs. That doesn’t mean existing house sales will take a big stumble, however, as the city continues to see unprecedented growth.

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