Natasha Stanley, one of the pioneer merchants of Owensboro's new downtown, is moving her Bella Ragazza Boutique from 120A W. Second St. to Wesleyan Park Plaza next month.
"It's definitely bittersweet," she said Wednesday. "I'm an advocate for downtown and I always will be. But we have just outgrown our space."
Stanley, a former chairwoman of the old We Are Downtown booster group, said she'll be moving her clothing store into the former Radio Shack space in Wesleyan Park Plaza.
"It's being built-out just for us," she said. "We'll be starting fresh. It's going to be great."
Stanley said the shopping center is being revitalized with new stores.
"The developer is bringing it back to life," she said. "We'll have great neighbors out there like we do downtown."
The Glass Factory moved from Kentucky 54 into the former Bakers Rack location in Wesleyan Park in mid-October.
The Nousiadis family, which owns Niko's Italian Cuisine in The Springs on East Parrish Avenue, opened Niko's Cafe & Bakery in the old Fantastic Sam's location on the south side of Wesleyan Park earlier this year.
And Shoe Stop is moving from Towne Square North into part of the old Kmart location in the shopping center.
The new Bella Ragazza will have a little more than 2,200 square feet, Stanley said.
"What we have downtown is about 1,600 square feet," she said. "We really need the extra space. And we'll have a lot more parking. We just need bigger everything."
City Commissioner Larry Conder, who owns with his wife, Rosemary, the building were Bella Ragazza has been since 2013, said, "Natasha has been a poster child for downtown business. She's done great down here. We hate to see her go, but we understand."
That will be the third empty space the Conders have in the old Smith-Werner Building.
But Conder said the former Gambrinus Libation Emporium location has been leased for another bar/lounge and two prospective tenants are looking at the old Bee Bops location for "food-based businesses."
He said five downtown buildings are currently for sale and several more are for lease, including 17,000 square feet in the old International Bluegrass Music Museum space in the RiverPark Center.
"We need more affordable housing downtown," Conder said.
More people living downtown will create more demand for restaurants and retail, he said.
Conder said property in the $750- to $850-a-month price range seems to stay full.
"But we may need rents a little lower than that," he said.
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301, firstname.lastname@example.org