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Deal Activity Reaches Frenzied Pace During Compressed RECon Conference

At Least 33,000 Hopeful Attendees Crowd Into Halls and Meeting Rooms of Las Vegas Convention Center, Surrounding Hotels, Looking to Line Up Retail Deals
May 20, 2014
Shopping center owners, retailers, brokers and capital providers all used the same word to describe the current market and well as activity at RECon 2014, the nation's largest retail trade conference -- 'plenty.'

As in plenty of debt and equity capital for shopping center acquisitions -- and increasingly, plenty of funding for new development and repositioning.

Also plenty of demand for existing mall space, redevelopment and new construction. And plenty of buyer and tenant interest and transaction activity across all types of shopping centers, from malls to strip centers.

A stroll around the exhibit halls and cafes Monday and Tuesday within the cavernous convention center confirmed plenty of deal making activity. This year, ICSC decided to start the conference Sunday and drop Wednesday off the schedule. Negotiating parties filled tables in well-appointed suites operated by CRE services giants such as JLL and Cushman & Wakefield, developers such as Forest City Enterprises, Taubman and General Growth Properties throughout the compressed three-day schedule.

"Luxury retail is hot, value is hot. The coastal states, the places that people want to live and are moving to -- that retail is hot. Our investors want to talk about those locations and want to know what's available," JLL Retail President Greg Maloney.

"Both the retailers and the owners are absolutely more optimistic this year," said Maloney. "The only negative side is that Sears and JCPenneys continue to lag in people's mind as they wonder what's going to happen."

B-mall investment was a big topic of conversation coming into the conference, and much of the deal making activity at the conference reflects it, Maloney said.

"Our investment sales people are very busy. Now, the question is whether that product will be available at a price that's attractive to the buyer. After the whole marketing process, we'll see over the next couple of weeks whether it's going to stick or not."

In a departure from the last three or four conferences, many owners and investors are starting to talk about ground up development. With no new supply in three or four years, "new supply is beginning to get a little traction, and I think that will continue," he said.

The macro environment is certainly favorable for demand, panelists agreed at a 2014 Retail Trends discussion sponsored Monday evening by Marcus & Millichap.

Despite recent negative press about the pace of U.S. home sales and the slow recovery, "there's a lot of healing in the economy," with retail sales now running 14% above their 2007 peak, said Marcus & Millichap executive vice president and chief strategy officer Hessam Nadji. Both the single-tenant and multi-tenant retail sectors have fully recovered and are poised for impending growth, he said.

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