There’s no accounting for taste. It may seem like there’s no apparent no reason why rents in some key retail streets in North America have risen or fallen in the past year. While some thoroughfares were impacted by the economy, the war in Iraq and the SARS epidemic, in some cases, rents in the cities most affected actually increased. In Honolulu, which was hit hard by concerns over travel, rents on Kalkalua Avenue rose significantly. This may have as much to do with supply and demand as anything else. The addition of 2100 Kalkalua Avenue, a retail project populated by large format stores from Chanel, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Boucheron and Tiffany & Co. also brought added cachet. Bloor Street in Toronto, a city where several hundred cases of SARS were diagnosed, has also seen rents rise, another case of retailers vying for limited space.

1 NEW YORK; Fifth Avenue between East 50th Street and East 59th Street

Although the going rent for the most prestigious part of Fifth Avenue may be $775, certain spaces, such as a choice corner or particularly attractive floor plan, command even more money. The new Ferragamo flagship on the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street has opened and Zegna is slated to occupy a portion of the space. Whether sales can justify the rent, which is reportedly upwards of $1,000 a square foot, remains to be seen.

2 SAN FRANCISCO; Post and Powell Streets

Saks Fifth Avenue is on the corner of Powell and Post Streets. Although Union Square is home to some of the most prestigious names in the world, the area has seen the influx of large chains. There’s a Borders Books and Music at 400 Post Street and a Victoria’s Secret at 335 Powell Street. Eddie Bauer is reportedly closing its large Post Street operation, but Sephora and Hermès are opening new units in the area in June.

3 CHICAGO; Michigan Avenue

Ralph Lauren, Tiffany & Co., Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Chanel and Nordstrom rub elbows with Marshalls, Filene’s Basement and Walgreens on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. The street also hosts national chains such as Victoria’s Secret and Gap.4 HONOLULU; Kalakaua Avenue and Seaside Avenue

Hawaii was affected by the war in Iraq and SARS. That hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of luxury retailers that are part of 2100 Kalakaua Avenue, the $140 million retail project in Oahu. The 110,000-square-foot center includes large format stores from Chanel, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Boucheron, Tiffany & Co. and Tod’s. In 2002, prices on Kalakaua Avenue averaged $145.

5 LAS VEGAS; Las Vegas Boulevard

One of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., Las Vegas has an estimated population of 1.6 million. Shopping choices include the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian and Desert Passage at the Aladdin. Simon Property Group, which owns the Forum Shops, is betting heavily on retail with a 200,000-square-foot expansion due to open in 2004.

6 LOS ANGELES; Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard

In a city of big ambitions and fearless fashion statements, these two streets’ offerings keep pace. Yves Saint Laurent has a prime spot on Rodeo Drive, a block north of Wilshire Boulevard and directly across the street from Gucci, Prada and Giorgio Beverly Hills. Meanwhile, the Neiman Marcus flagship on Wilshire Boulevard fetes designers such as Roberto Cavalli, who makes clothes for those L.A. fitness fanatics.

7 BOSTON; Newbury Street

Boston’s legendary Brahmins must have shopped on Newbury Street, which retains its exclusive character. Retailers such as Giorgio Armani, Cartier, Burberry, Chanel and Akris occupy the lower floors of residential town houses. Mass-appeal merchants, such as Virgin Records, Skechers and Steve Madden, reside closer to Massachusetts Avenue. A new multilevel Sigrid Olsen flagship is a recent addition to the street.

8 TORONTO; Bloor Street

Toronto was reeling in April when the SARS scare thwarted tourism and hit the retail sector hard. The street, in its toniest shopping district, boasts Chanel, Emporio Armani, Hermès, Holt Renfrew, Max Mara, Prada, Versace, Versus, Benetton and Club Monaco.

9 VANCOUVER; Robson Street

Robson Street was originally called Robsonstrasse by the German settlers who opened small shops, delis and restaurants. It still has a European flavor, and retail is international and upscale. Stores such as Chanel, Zegna, Louis Vuitton, Banana Republic, French Connection and Club Monaco coexist with local boutiques and the obligatory Starbucks.10 HOUSTON; Westheimer Road

Galleria Shopping Center is a key hangout for fashionable Houston ladies with their big hair and bigger jewelry. The recent opening of Galleria IV, anchored by Nordstrom and Foley’s, turned the center from an exclusive group of boutiques and cafes into a full-blown retail mecca. Stores include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Betsey Johnson.

11 MONTREAL; St. Catherine Street West

St. Catherine Street is Montreal’s main shopping drag. In addition to the famous Underground City, which features nearly 10 miles of corridors that include restaurants, theatres, hotels and shopping boutiques, there’s the Place Montreal Trust shopping concourse featuring brands such as Zara, Indigo, MEXX and Super Monde des Athlètes.

12 LA JOLLA, CALIF.; Girard Avenue and Prospect Street

Ocean views and temperate weather attract locals and tourists to La Jolla, which is about 10 miles northwest of San Diego. Shopping is the icing on the cake. Nicole Miller, Phillipe Charriol and Cartier cater to the monied folks, while Island Hoppers and World Core Surf attract a trendier crowd.

13 WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.; Main Street and Mount Diablo Boulevard

Walnut Creek is shaping up as one of the Bay Area’s elite shopping locations. Lined with art galleries and restaurants, Walnut Creek includes a new retail development called The Corners with a Tiffany and Pottery Barn. The 33,000-square-foot project caused controversy when developers wanted to remove a 200-year-old heritage oak. The plan was changed and now features public art.

14 PHILADELPHIA; Walnut Street

Coach signed a lease in May for a 2,700-square-foot store at 1703 Walnut Street. It will be located in one of the hipper retail sections of the city, near Kiehl’s, Arden B., Diesel, Waterworks, Tiffany and Burberry, plus several restaurants and clubs.

15 SEATTLE; Sixth Avenue

Downtown Seattle has undergone substantial change in the past few years, including the addition of the $170 million Pacific Place retail-cinema project at Sixth Avenue and Pine Street. Flagship were remodeled at Nordstrom, The Bon Marche and Gap, and several new retailers appeared.SOURCE: COLLIERS INTERNATIONAL: NORTH AMERICA REAL ESTATE HIGHLIGHTS 2003

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