Among the movers and shakers in the community, one commercial broker is initiating efforts to help businesses set up base at the West End.
Candice Bushnell White is a commercial real estate broker for First West Properties and collaborates with prospective business owners and property management companies that have a presence in the community.
White was born and raised in Sierra Vista and has shifted her former focus on residential real estate over to commercial.
“There is a need here and something needs to happen,” she said. “Something needs to change.”
She and other members of the community discussed ideas together of how to help the West End redevelop and how could they serve the clients to find the commercial spaces that they need.
Several of Paul Ash Management’s properties are at the forefront of the West End and are a key piece in creating a vibrant downtown core for Sierra Vista. White said that the property management company has been responsive and very optimistic towards the revitalization efforts.
“They are very committed to the West End revitalization,” White said.
White is working with Mike Ash, chief operations officer and designated broker for Paul Ash Management Company and facilitates the leasing agreements as a way of helping businesses get started at the West End.
“I’m very impressed with his willingness to participate and to pretty much do what it takes to get the properties where they need to be,” she said.
Frank Moro, who owns First West, one of the largest commercial brokerages in Sierra Vista, brought White onto a mentorship and has been supportive in leading her to work with different clients.
“You have to have a lot of experience and knowledge that Frank has allowed for me to learn through him,” she said. “The support he provides me and allows me to work with the clients in Sierra Vista, especially on the West End, is phenomenal.”
In the case of property management companies, finding a broker to lease commercial properties can be challenging. White said that recently there’s been an uptick in commercial need in Sierra Vista, especially from interested entrepreneurs.
Ash Management and First West have been working with local companies and local contractors that would provide for feasibility in establishing businesses at the West End.
“There’s a lot more involved when it comes to finding the right space for the right business,” White said. “You have to not only keep the city happy, you have to keep the broker happy, you have to keep the client happy and everybody has to be successful.”
“Business is where my heart and soul is. Just to take the next step and to be able to serve businesses which is where mine and my husband’s passion is. The more people you serve the more it comes back to you.”
Aside from collaboration between owners of buildings in the West End and tenants that need spaces, White explained that it ultimately comes down to capital and inventory when creating a business.
In the commercial sphere, a sprinkler system, also known as fire suppression in the buildings is required. She explained if there’s a change of use with regards to the business, the city is required to bring it up to code.
“That’s not always feasible,” she said. “If they are already limited on capital, and they have to bring it up to code, they’re going to just move on and that’s what’s been happening.”
White said it can be challenging for new business owners to be able to meet the demand of expenses which can be prohibitive to getting started. She also explained that is more challenging for businesses to get into older spaces.
As the West End revitalization continues to unfold, White said that her dedication for helping businesses grow, Mike Ash’s commitment and First West being the largest commercial brokerage are all activators for success.
“It’s all coming together, it’s just a matter of time.”
White said that commercial kitchens are very difficult to find in town which can prohibit entrepreneurs for starting up a new restaurant at the West End. Installing a commercial kitchen space can reach exorbitant costs which can be a hindrance.
“There is certainly work to do in order to rehabilitate some spaces and we will do so in order to attract new business to the West End and help them to be as successful as possible,” Ash said.
“In the past there seemed to be a lot of red tape from the City but they are working to reduce some of the burdens in place which is greatly appreciated,” he added.
With the closure of the main gate to the military base on Fry Boulevard, it has impacted businesses the last few years by reducing traffic at the West End.
“Without asking the Base to sacrifice the safety of their soldiers, we’d love for them to be more cognizant of their effect on the West End moving forward,” he said.
Many commercial spaces in the West End redevelopment area have been empty and vacant for some time. However, the commercial spaces have garnered prospective interest as revitalization efforts and streetscape improvements continue.
“Candice is really plugged into the community and is really active working with the City to effect change here,” Ash said. “She has a lot of enthusiasm for the West End that will help us be successful. Further, Frank Moro has been a key part of the local business community for several decades and I think he knows literally everyone, so First West was a natural choice for us.”
Ash explained that offering competitive leasing rates would allow for entrepreneurs to recognize the value that his property management company offers.
“Our buildings will be a hub for food, entertainment, services and nightlife. We want merchants to have symbiotic relationships. It would be ideal to have new concepts bring new customers to our long term merchants and for our long term merchants to provide a good customer base to the new ventures that join us.”
Ash said that he’s working every day to address the property’s physical needs.
“The City has shown a willingness to work with us and new merchants to overcome some of the more burdensome restrictions that have typically been placed on users and in addition to grants for paint and signage, perhaps there are additional funds available to small businesses for business fixtures and technology, marketing expertise that startups could benefit from.”
Ash said that a common issue that the property management company encounters is trying to find local vendors to help with construction and maintenance issues.
“The licensed and insured local vendors are in such high demand that they are scheduling months out,” he said, “and that was before any supply chain issues and labor shortages really manifested.”
Paul Ash Management invested money towards repaving their parking lot at the Vista Square Shopping Plaza in April to make the shopping area feel safer and attractive.
City of Sierra Vista Business Ombudsman Dianna Cameron said the city sees opportunity for new business growth and development and also the opportunity for development of community.
“It is important for us to develop solid relationships with all commercial realtors, property owners, and business owners in the community,” she said. “In the West End, it is true that a lot of properties are owned by only a handful of people and many of them are not local residents. This can create a challenge and make it difficult for property owners that reside out of area to have a complete picture of what is going on within the community, particularly if they do not have a local liaison.”
She explained that the City’s efforts on the West End have gone a long way to help encourage interest in the area and attract potential entrepreneurs to the vacancies. The completion of the streetscape project, approved extension of the West Sierra Vista Partnership Program that offers matching grant opportunities, and incentives for building and site improvements for local businesses are all vital tools that would allow for new business growth and become a stimulant for redevelopment of the area.
“Our goal in economic development is always to see new businesses open and become successful,” she said. “Vacant spaces detract from the look and feel of our community so it is and has always been best practice to facilitate relationships and partnerships that encourage vacant spaces to be filled.”
Cameron said that tenant improvements are a big consideration for businesses trying to enter the market, and can become quite costly, especially if a prospective business is changing the use of the space from what it was previously.
“We encourage business owners to schedule a courtesy inspection of the space they are considering so that we can assist in educating them about the codes and requirements for their specific business type and space,” she said. “The last thing we want to see is a business sign a lease only to find out the cost to open is prohibitive.”
“We would love to see more unique, local, small businesses, such as artisans, food-based businesses, and entertainment services in that area. That’s a big part of why the City established an entertainment district in the West End and completed streetscape improvements designed to cultivate a more downtown, pedestrian-orientated environment where these types of businesses can be successful.”
For being able to attract businesses to the area and allowing for them to succeed, Ash said what is needed is a good tenant mix of goods and services that appeal to soldiers on base, young people, families and senior citizens.
“I see our center being successful by having local businesses as opposed to the larger national chains. My sense is that people in Sierra Vista want to shop local as much as possible and we hope to attract those entrepreneurs to our buildings.”