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HOUSTON-Before the year ends, more than four million sf of retail space or about one million sf more than last year will be added to the Houston-area market, according to the latest report by Dallas-based Weitzman Group.

According to researchers, Wal-Mart accounts for nearly one million sf of the total with the balance coming from other big boxes and the Galleria expansion. One of the biggest expansions is coming from San Antonio-based H-E-B, which is pouring $150 million into11 new stores, including a 90,000-sf location at Beechnut and Beltway 8. Kroger will open four more stores this year. Housing starts of 30,000 this year are fueling the demand.

The Weitzman team pegs occupancy at 85% in an inventory of 125 million sf. Occupancy dropped practically a point from the 2002 close primarily due to more shutdowns by Kmart. The rents, though, remained stable and will continue that way through the year’s end. The average runs from $18 per sf to $22 per sf. The low end is $9 per sf for second-generation space while the high end is bringing $26 per sf.

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