By  on May 2, 2007

Northern California's Silicon Valley is showing renewed economic vigor, and retailers have taken notice.

Six years after the dot-com bubble burst, three major malls are expanding or beefing up their tenant rosters as competition intensifies in the high-tech center. There also is heightened interest in retail space for freestanding stores of all types catering to the Silicon Valley luxury market and its geek-billionaire mystique.

The mall projects are:

-- A 240,000-square-foot expansion to the 1.4 million-square-foot outdoor Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, which is owned by Stanford University and was leased four years ago to the Simon Property Group. There are 140 stores, and the anchors are Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Macy's, Macy's Men's Store and Bloomingdale's.

-- Valley Fair, which is located in the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara and was developed by Westfield Group, based in Australia, wants to add 560,000 square feet for 55 stores and two more anchors. The mall now has 1.4 million square feet, 244 stores and three anchors: Nordstrom, Macy's and Macy's Men's Store.

-- San Jose's Santana Row, an outdoor shopping-hotel-condo complex developed by Federal Realty, based in Rockville, Md., has become a magnet for young professionals who pack its restaurants and cafes. Santana Row has announced that Hennes & Mauritz signed a lease to open a 7,900-square-foot store this year, and BCBG Max Azria will expand. Santana Row, which has a Macy's, along with 70 stores and 550,000 square feet of retail space, opened in 2002 and competes directly with Valley Fair across Highway 280.

Silicon Valley — or the Santa Clara Valley — got its moniker more than 35 years ago because of the area's concentration of silicon chip manufacturers, which propelled high-tech growth. The valley, a one-hour drive south of San Francisco, has a population of 2.44 million, including 1 million who live in San Jose. The rest of the region is affluent suburban communities built on former almond, plum, pear and apricot orchards. The valley is spread over 1,200 square miles between two mountain ranges at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay.

Most important to retailers, the region is headquarters to many of the world's most important technology companies, including Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo, Intel and Hewlett-Packard. About one-third of the valley's 1.2 million workers are employed in high tech.

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