Park Avenue commercial space 100 percent leased

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WINTER PARK, Fla. - If you're looking to gauge central Florida's economic recovery, look no further than Winter Park.

For the first time in a quarter century, there's no commercial space vacancy on Park Avenue.

Every pricy restaurant or retail space on the "see-and-be-seen" stretch has been rented.

"The economy is definitely looking up," said Erika Spence, with the Chamber of Commerce.

With no shortage of places to eat or shop, "The Avenue" has something for everyone.

"There's definitely demand to be here," Spence said.

In a few weeks, a vacant storefront will reopen as an Ethan Allen showroom.

It was the last spot available to rent on the half-mile shopping district stretch.

The city's architects designed the area 125 years ago.

While there have been bumps in the brick road, one retailer has stood the test of time for nearly three decades.

"It takes a lot of work, but things are good. We're not going anywhere," retailer Paige Blackwelder said.

There are newcomers. The culinary experience along Park Avenue continues to evolve and expand.

"It's picking up and we started having repeat customers," said restaurant owner Guide Cholvanich.

One turnoff to merchants may be the sky-high rent.

One business owner said the price of doing business on Park Avenue during his 30 years has gone up 900 percent, which may account for frequent turnover.

"When you come to Park Avenue you have to plan for success," Spence said.

The Chamber of Commerce expects Park Avenue to be at capacity for a while with would-be businesses on a waiting list.

"We have something for everyone on Park Avenue now that we're 100 percent leased," Spence said.

Because of the increase in traffic expected on Park Avenue, the city is doing a feasibility study to make sure it can accommodate more vehicles.

Recommendations are expected at Monday's City Commission meeting.