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LAS VEGAS-Brokers, developers and retailers have long been visible attendees at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Spring Convention here, but one group that has a growing presence at the event is the public sector. Municipalities are joining ICSC (their membership numbers have increased by 24% over the last three years, according to the organization) and 48 of them will be exhibiting at the convention to promote their locales as retail-friendly areas.

Different cities come for different reasons. Some are trying to renovate their downtowns, others are seeing a housing boom that needs accompanying services, while others want to help a property owner redevelop an aging mall.

The city of Ontario, CA, has had a booth at the convention for six years to promote various projects as it has grown. From 1990 to 2000, population has jumped by close to 20%. “We were in a very fast growth period,” Mary Jane Olhasso, Ontario’s economic development director, tells GSR. “We have [the booth] to get in front of the developers, tenants and brokers. We had to be in Las Vegas, period.”

Officials of the city’s 170,000 residents expect more people to enter their borders. Over the next 20 years they expect between 100,000 and 200,000 more to come. “We’re going to be at ICSC for a long time,” Olhasso says.

Among the three projects the city is highlighting this year is Piemonte at Ontario Center, a mixed-used project with about 300,000 sf of retail that is in the initial phases of development and is being built Panattoni Development Co. The city council and other officials will be on hand to inform parties about Piemonte and other opportunities. “We don’t leave the booth,” Olhasso says.

Less than 10 miles Northeast of Ontario, officials at Rancho Cucamonga, CA, can point to one recent, major development that was built as a direct result of the convention. Last year in that city Forest City Enterprises opened the 1.2 million-sf, open-air Victoria Gardens.

Rancho Cucamonga had a head start at the convention – it was the first municipality to exhibit, 16 years ago, according to ICSC. “We went to ICSC because we saw what our future would be, and we needed to educate developers, brokers and retailers about Rancho Cucamonga,” says Linda Daniels, the city’s redevelopment director.

Now that the city of 147,000 has landed a super-regional center, the city’s aim at the convention will be different from years past, she said. “The appetite is so much different now than it was three years ago,” Daniels says.

Ironically, one city that will make its debut as an exhibitor, is the municipality that hosts the convention. Las Vegas officials will promote the city’s downtown redevelopment efforts, which include 32 projects, all of them calling for ground-floor retail. Additionally, they are looking for entertainment tenants to fill up a proposed 300,000 sf of space.

“It’s the one event where it brings together all of the major retail tenants and developers,” says Scott Adams, the city’s director of business development. “It’s kind of neat that we don’t have to travel to come to it.”

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