LAS VEGAS-Though the current downturn in commercial real estate might last anywhere from eight months to 24 months, retailer bankruptcies and the ripple effects could remain a concern for even longer, said speakers at ICSC’s RECon conference, which concludes here on Wednesday. Even experts are having problems determining just where the industry is in terms of the economic cycle, particularly with some regions stronger than others, noted panelists at a session discussing “Open Air Centers in a Challenging Environment.”

“The next two years will be problems for some, opportunities for others,” said session co-chairman Martin Mayer, president and CEO of Stirling Properties, based in Covington, LA.

The industry is still fairly early into the retail shakeout, as consumers are just beginning to change their shopping habits, said Kenneth Bernstein, president of Acadia Realty Trust, based in White Plains, NY. More retailer bankruptcies will follow, with a consequent rise in store closings. Mayer noted that ICSC has predicted 6,000 stores will go dark in 2008, the highest number since 2001. But that isn’t the real problem.

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