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SEATTLE-This city and its suburbs are No. 1 in the nation for retail investment over the next three years, according to a new study from Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co. that measures economic, demographic and supply and demand indicators. The study, released to coincide with the ICSC spring convention in Las Vegas this week, uses the same methodology as its annual National Retail Index but looks out three years instead of just one year. In the NRI, which was released in February, Seattle ranked No. 15. Seattle soared to No. 1 in the new three-year outlook thanks to projected total employment growth of 8%, or 120,000 jobs, which the study says will drive strong household and income growth. In addition, Seattle has less retail space per person than in most cities, according to the study.Some existing investor-developers are already taking advantage. Simon Property Group is building 100,000 sf of additional shops and restaurants on underutilized parcels at Northgate Mall, and Westfield is adding 500,000 sf (80 to 100 stores) to Southcenter Mall. Concurrently with Seattle’s rise, several Top 10 cities in the 2005 NRI (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC) fell out of the Top 10 in the new three-year outlook. “The fact that these markets are strong today and performed well during the downturn does not leave much room for improvement, which mitigated their momentum in the longer-term outlook,” according to the study. “Harder-hit markets, such as those that fell prey to the tech bust, offer significant improvement opportunities as the economy gains momentum.”

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