By  on June 4, 2007

LAS VEGAS — The sight along the Strip of cranes hovering over towers in various stages of completion was a sign of optimism not lost on the 50,000 real estate and retail professionals attending the International Council of Shopping Centers' spring convention here late last month.

While earth was being moved at the massive CityCenter and Shoppes at the Palazzo projects, Taubman and General Growth Properties, which are respectively leasing the two properties, were competing to secure key tenants.

While few leases are actually signed during ICSC, retailers on the prowl for space do a mating dance with brokers and developers; deals often get consummated after the convention has ended. Nordstrom hired Madison HGCD to lead its search for a New York flagship. Liz Claiborne was actively seeking locations for its Kate Spade, Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand Jeans units, and British retailer Topshop was said to be in the market for three 50,000-square-foot locations in Manhattan.

"Barneys New York wants to do an Upper East Side Co-op store," said Robert K. Futter­man, chairman of the real estate firm that bears his name.

Concerns about rising rents, especially in key cities such as New York and San Francisco, were raised at the convention, which ran May 20 to 23. "Rents on 34th Street [in Manhattan] were $100 a square foot eight years ago," said Jeffrey Paisner, executive managing director of Lansco. "Now, they're $400 a square foot. It's no different on Rodeo Drive or North Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Rents in malls aren't rising at the same rate as street locations."

Prices have risen feverishly in the 34th Street corridor, where J.C. Penney will unveil in late 2008 or 2009 a 150,000-square-foot store in the Manhattan Mall on Sixth Avenue between 32nd and 33rd Streets, right in Macy's backyard. Macy's may get even more company. A property at 1333 Broadway at 35th Street was being marketed at ICSC as a potential flagship for a department store. "We can make the first 10 floors available," said Jeffrey Roseman, executive vice president and principal of Newmark Knight Frank. "That's anywhere from 65,000 square feet to 250,000 square feet. This area completely changes with [Penney's]."

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