PHOENIX-City officials here want retail developers to know that Phoenix is still open for business, despite the tremendous growth the area has experienced over the past several years. Paul Katsenes, the city’s deputy economic development director, yesterday detailed past and future expansion to attendees at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Conference on Open-Air Centers.

The city has identified about $3.5 billion in additional potential retail sales in the city by 2010, Katsenes says. Of the 516 square miles that make up Phoenix’s city limits, there is still 100 square miles of undeveloped land, mostly in the northeast and southwest areas of the municipality.

Population projections are enormous. City officials project the population to double, to 7.3 million people in the metro area, by 2050. To compensate for that, 3.7 million new houses are forecast by 2040.

In 1990, the area’s population stood at just over 2.1 million and has increased to its current level of 3.3 million. At just below 1.6 million people, the City of Phoenix alone is the fifth largest in the country, and officials expect it to surpass Houston and take the number four spot in three to five years.

And the there are still redevelopment opportunities, Katsenes says. During last year’s third quarter, the city’s vacancy rate was 4.8%, and there was 1.1 million sf of absorption. “We think it’s not adequate for the growth that we project,” he says.

Meanwhile, the city is making transportation improvements to service the population boom. A light rail system that will travel a 20-mile route from Phoenix, east to neighboring Tempe, is set to open in the fall of 2008, and city officials are seeking developers to build retail projects at train stops.

The ICSC open-air-center meeting ends Friday. Check GSR the rest of this week through early next week for continuous coverage.

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