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FORT BEND COUNTY, TX-With continued residential growth, the Fort Bend County retail market, which includes 11.7 million sf in 109 centers is faring well in the current economic climate, according to a report presented by the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council.

Jennifer Raymond, the council’s senior vice president, tells GlobeSt.com that the area’s population is predicted to double by 2020, with a head count of more than 732,900 residents. It equates to 17,000 new residents each year.

But that’s down the road, the present fact is that the retail inventory is about 14% empty, according to Raymond. Still, she doesn’t consider it a red flag. About 435,000 sf delivered from January through August and an additional 497,000 sf is underway. The good news is that most of it is pre-leased, she points out.

The bulk of the new space, almost 314,000 sf, is located at the Grand Parkway and US Highway 59. H-E-B is the center’s anchor, a lead that surfaced in the wake of Albertsons exit from the Houston market.

Albertsons’ three stores in Fort Bend County are already taken. One was sold to investors, and the others bought by Safeway. Kmart, Weiner’s and Service Merchandise had one store each in the county. Only the Kmart remains empty.

Raymond says Fort Bend County has had a problem with retailers vacating big boxes to move to larger “super” locations or newer facilities. The trend put more than one million sf of big box space on the market. About a year ago, the council started an aggressive marketing plan to re-tenant the 25 locations. To date, 10 new owners or tenants have stepped forward.

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