Is the shopping center near you a bit ... empty? It may stay that way for a while.

Shopping centers in our area have a vacancy rate of 12.4 percent. That's down from more than 13 percent a year ago, but improvements have been anything but brisk.

"Vacancy has been high since 2007, and it has been a very slow ... recovery," Garrick Brown with Tereranomics Retail Services said. 

Brown says there's not enough economic momentum for big box stores right now, but smaller shops are moving in.

Fast casual chains, what's considered a step above fast food, operators like Panera Bread and Smash Burger, have been doing well. 

Local activity has also been driven by new smaller format grocery stores and you can expect more of them.