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October 23, 2018

Adventure park to fill vacant Bob's Stores space in Manchester

PHOTO | Urban Air Adventure Park An Urban Air Adventure Park venue.

A sprawling, 53,000-square-foot trampoline and indoor entertainment park is in the works for a currently empty big-box store near Manchester's Buckland Hills mall.

Philadelphia-based real estate firm Metro Commercial Real Estate Inc. announced this week that it has a brokered a deal for Urban Air Adventure Park to move into the former Bob’s Stores location at 220 Hale Road, part of the area’s bustling retail corridor.

Metro representatives said the arrangement is one of 15 contracts it has secured in the past year for the rapidly expanding, Texas-based entertainment company, which specializes in highly kinetic attractions such as trampolines, bumper cars, climbing walls, indoor skydiving, laser tag, obstacle and ropes courses, and zip-lines.

Metro Vice President Stephen Carrozza said Monday that, in looking for ideal locations for Urban Air’s new parks, his company zeroed in on areas with ready access from major thoroughfares, a high concentration of children 8 to 14 years old, and families with disposable income. Manchester, Carrozza said, checked all of those boxes.

Urban Air tends to adapt its attractions to the buildings it occupies, Carrozza said, so the company will have to decide what activities work best and make sense in the former Bob’s space.

If plans for the Hale Road site move forward as expected, the indoor park would share the plaza with a Marshalls location and a P.C. Richard & Son store.

The company has not said when it expects Urban Air to open its doors.

Carrozza said the explosive growth of Urban Air in recent months speaks to a larger trend in the commercial sector.

Among businesses looking for between 25,000 and 40,000 square feet of operating space, he said, fitness, discount retailers, grocery stores and entertainment businesses now predominate.

But Carrozza cautioned against interpreting Urban Air’s move to the former Bob’s as another sign of the growing “retail apocalypse” driven by a surge in online shopping.

With the exception of some notable legacy companies like Sears and Toys R Us, he said, retailers are not struggling as badly as dire headlines sometimes suggest. Finding suitable space for clients can still be a challenge in the current market, he added, and, in general, companies are scaling down their retail footprint, making their backrooms more efficient and leveraging online commerce channels to reach shoppers.

And, at the end of the day, he said, consumers still get something enjoyable out of shopping in person.

“Everyone agrees Amazon is a phenomenal platform, and it’s not going anywhere,” he said. “But people are still social beings. They want to touch and feel the products they buy, and they want to interact with other people.”

Over the past year, Urban Air has opened or initiated plans to open indoor parks in Connecticut, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. An Urban Air location opened in Orange over the summer.

HBJ has modified this story

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