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CHICAGO-The vacancy rate for specialty-store space in Downtown Chicago’s State Street/Wabash Avenue shopping district rose negligibly to 4.5% from last fall’s 4.3%, according to the 12th annual survey of retail space by Northern Realty Group Ltd. In addition, the average asking rent climbed 8.8% to $56.34 per sf from $51.76 a year ago.

This year’s average asking rent of $128.42 per sf within the more upscale North Michigan Avenue retail district is more than double the State Street rates. However, according to Michael Shields, EVP at Northern Realty, conditions remain quite healthy for the State/Wabash corridor. “State/Wabash retail asking rents are at their highest in more than a decade, and have trended upward since hitting a low of $25.91 in 1995,” says Shields.

Specialty-store space now available for lease in the district stands at 39,590 sf out of a total inventory of 864,675 sf. A reduction in that inventory from 2000′s 887,990 sf resulted from the removal of existing properties to make room for larger developments. Buildings that formerly housed Talbot’s, B. Dalton and the Gap on North Wabash Avenue are vacant and await demolition and replacement by a mixed-use project still in the planning stages.

While the health of the shopping district continues to improve, uncertainty clouds the future of some projects. The vacant Block 37, across from Marshall Field’s flagship State Street store, is still in limbo, as are planned projects at the northeast corner of Randolph and State streets, the former Woolworth’s site at State and Washington streets and the southwest corner of Adams and State.

Northern Realty’s survey includes retail space on State Street and Wabash Avenue from Wacker Drive on the north to Congress Parkway on the south, excluding bank buildings.

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