The vacancy rate for storefronts has improved during the last couple years in downtown Billings, according to the Downtown Billings Alliance, but fewer companies are using office space in the upper parts of buildings.
A big downtown building just went on the market Wednesday, and some say this, along with some of those offices inside, creates an opportunity.
Billings Gazette management made the announcement Wednesday it is selling the building at 401 N. Broadway.
The 94,000 square feet is listed at $7.865 million.
Other downtown buildings are empty, and those who work closely with some of the businesses say those vacancies are in the offices.
Mehmet Casey, Downtown Billings alliance development director, says there are about 20 vacancies out of hundreds in places for stores and restaurants.
"We're seeing a lot of business activity at the street level at least, especially the smaller spaces," Casey said.
The company CoStar shows a 24% vacancy for offices in Billings, which is higher than the more than 15% nationwide reported in some online publications.
"I represent properties downtown," said Travis Dimond, vice president of Billings-based Berkshire Hathaway Floberg Real Estate. "I've done business downtown of course. I don't see 30% of the buildings standing empty. Most certainly not. I will concede the office space was soft in 2020 obviously. I think that you know with the remote work, Zoom meetings, etc., I think that kind of changed the flavor of the demand here."
The Gazette will still use its building while Dimond and his company help with the sale.
"One of the aspects of the opportunity there is the size and the footprint of the building," Dimond said. "I envision multiple uses, maybe even under the same roof."
"It takes a little bit longer for those spaces to fill because again it's not that easily customizable space," Casey said.
While Casey and Dimond say there are vacancies in the offices, they remain optimistic those gaps will be filled.
"In my opinion, it's very healthy and positive," Casey said.
"Downtowns are challenged in general," Dimond said. "And we're ardently fighting against that here and trying to keep our downtown bustling and viable."