CHICAGO—Even though investors have begun pouring money intocommercial real estate sectors such as multifamily, industrial andsenior housing, they remain cautious when it comes to most retail.However, urban infill retail has largely captured theirimagination. And yesterday at the Urban Land Institute'sFall Meeting, a panel of experts wrestled with thedifficulties presented when developing retail in dense urbancores.

John L. Bucksbaum, the former president and CEOof General Growth Companies, Inc., said he spentmost of his career in the suburbs. “Suburban retail is still very,very strong. The good malls are only going to get better.” However,he added that he “grew up on the development side of the business,”and since new suburban developments have gotten less common, as thehead of Bucksbaum Retail Properties LLC, he nowfocuses on urban infill retail.

Matthew Wakenight, the senior vice president,investments for Equity Residential Properties,said urban residential developers need to learn how to properly addin a retail component to their projects, even if it comprises arelatively small portion of the total cost. Although the benefitsare very hard to measure, the life properly-designed retail bringsto the street does create value, he believes, by making residentsmore loyal to an area. “If you're walking by vacant retaileveryday, it doesn't help. People want to live there and say,'that's my coffeeshop.'”

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Brian J. Rogal

Brian J. Rogal is a Chicago-based freelance writer with years of experience as an investigative reporter and editor, most notably at The Chicago Reporter, where he concentrated on housing issues. He also has written extensively on alternative energy and the payments card industry for national trade publications.