According to the ICSC, over 500 new centers totaling 17.9million sf were planned between 2006 and 2009, the majority inmature retail markets in Western Europe. Still, about 130 projectsare planned for EU-accession countries, nearly doubling theexisting stock. And in Eastern Europe, a number of projects arebeing built in second-tier cities, a new trend, said ChristophAchammer, a board member of architecture and engineering firm ATPGroup, in Vienna.

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"Big centers are not just in big cities, but have spread tocities of 50,000 to 70,000 inhabitants," such as the 60,000-sm(646,000-sf) Polus Centre in Ciuj, Romania, Achammer said.

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In more developed Western Europe, projects are focused on theinner city, with renovations particularly important. But creatingprojects that will last remains a challenge as developers facecontradictory trends, such as luxury shoppers also frequentingdiscounters, and globalization co-existing with cocooning. All ofthis must be incorporated into both new and existing centers, whichincreasingly are being refurbished and must take rising fuel pricesinto account. Only the strong Euro has prevented fuel costs fromrising 40%, noted Stina Soewarta, a member of the Cabinet ofCommissioner Andris Pielbags, the EU Commissioner for Energy.

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And despite the economic slowdown in North America, developersremain upbeat. At an informal survey taken during the initialsessions, about 50 % of the respondents said they remainedoptimistic about short-term investment in new and existing shoppingcenters in Europe. Over the long term, defined as 10 years in thesurvey, 74% said they were optimistic.

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"If a recession does happen in the United States, it willcertainly have an impact in Europe," said Jaap Gillis, COO ofRedevco Europe, Amsterdam. "We may see a slowdown in some markets,but I don't see a collapse in this environment."

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