NEW YORK CITY-With the International Council of Shopping Centers’ 2007 Spring Convention just weeks away, pre-registrations are running 12% ahead of last year, when the final attendance count was in the 45,000 range. Attendance at this year’s 50th anniversary meeting is expected to top the 50,000 mark, and all those delegates will find a vastly changed venue when they arrive.

One aspect is its size. Previously, the show occupied about one million sf of the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to Phyllis Peterson, director of leasing and dealmaking for ICSC. This year, with the addition of the facility’s South Hall, that number is closer to two million sf. About half of that space is occupied by the Leasing Mall, an exhibition primarily of developers, brokers, retailers and financial institutions. Also part of the show are the Trade Expo, featuring product and service suppliers, and a variety of other features. Convention meetings and sessions will be at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel, adjacent to the convention center.

In terms of space, “we have grown the Leasing Mall by 21% and the Trade Expo by 36%,” Peterson says. “We actually began the process 18 months ago, before the 2006 Leasing Mall even started. We put together information packets to explain what was going to happen, and we constructed a model for the 2006 convention, showing people what our plans were.”

One of the challenges was to handle a significant amount of exhibitor displacement. “The show had to be leased one-on-one because of the reconfiguration,” Peterson explains. “Everyone got a call and had a discussion about the selection of space. We gave everyone choices and options.”

A second challenge was to answer concerns about generating traffic to the South Hall, the far end of which is about three-quarters of a mile from the Las Vegas Hilton. “We moved all of the retailers to the South Hall as the anchor,” Peterson explains. “They are the most exciting part of the show.”

And a number of developers and brokers followed retail exhibitors to the South Hall, especially brokers that deal heavily with retailers, including Chain Links, Marcus & Millichap, NAI Global and Colliers International. Major developers that have relocated include Weingarten Realty, Phillips Edison, DLC Management, Cedarwood Development and Plaza Properties.

Another feature of the expanded space in the South Hall is a second Public Sector Plaza, joining the original one in the center’s North Hall. “We went from 42 public sector exhibitors last year to 80 this year,” Peterson says. “That’s the fastest-growing sector of the show.”

Also in the South Hall is the new Chairman’s Gold Circle, a meeting/networking area for global delegates. “In general, we’re getting more global exhibitors, especially from the Pacific Rim, Russia and the Middle East,” she says. Another new feature is the Green Zone, for exhibitors supplying eco-friendly products and services.

The Central Hall is also getting a major new venue, the Finance Court, grouping more than two-dozen lenders previously scattered around the show. “We will have a Wall Street-style ticker announcing who’s in that area,” she says.

Finally, “the registration area has been moved,” she emphasizes. “It’s now actually on the convention floor. Registration is the link between the Central Hall and the South Hall. We positioned it near an escalator that accesses the South Hall.”

To facilitate the traffic out to the South Hall, “we’re going to have shuttle buses and trams every few minutes,, circling the entire convention center,” Peterson says. “That will help people navigate the show and get to their appointments faster. That’s very important at Leasing Mall – it’s an appointment-driven show.”