LAS VEGAS — Thousands of real estate developers, brokers, consultants, retailers and executive hangers-on will descend on the Las Vegas Hilton and Convention Center today for the International Council of Shopping Centers “Breaking New Ground” spring convention. Nearly 50 percent of the upcoming year’s mall deals are said to be made at ICSC — and all of the year’s trends.

A few hot button topics are sure to be on the tips of everyone’s tongue. A year and change after Federated Department Stores completed its acquisition of May Department Stores, developers from Simon Property Group, the Westfield Group, and the Macerich Co. are just starting to pick up steam on the redevelopment of Federated’s redundant space. The developers will be cherrypicking the best locations and replacing dated Macy’s and Strawbridge’s stores with the likes of Nordstrom – or with lifestyle and mixed-use elements.

While some mall owners are touting the so-called “new urbanism” of mixed-use centers that are now blooming in the suburbs, there are traditional regional mall operators going in the opposite direction, dipping their toes in real urban markets. General Growth Properties Inc.’s newest strategy includes exploring underserved areas such as the South Side of Chicago and Oakland, Calif. “We need to be looking into the core of cities and understand that they have real growth potential,” said General Growth scion John Bucksbaum.

And while developers will be reluctant to speak on the clouds looming over The Mills Corp., the whispers about the downfall of one of the world’s largest retail developers is sure to reach fever pitch at this conference, the first major gathering of retail and real estate executives since Mills’ troubles went public. Bucksbaum says it would be “only responsible” for General Growth to nose about certain properties, while a representative from another major developer coyly noted, “we wouldn’t be doing our job if we weren’t looking at buying them.”

Stay tuned this week for more web exclusive live updates from the ICSC in Las Vegas.