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OAKBROOK TERRACE, IL-There was a record delivery of 8.4 million sf of new shopping center space in the Chicagoland area in 2007, according to a new report. The amount delivered was the highest since Mid-America Real Estate, based here, began its annual shopping center report in 1983, and an increase of 2.4 million sf, or about 40%, from 2006. Approximately 7.6 million sf of shopping center space is expected to be constructed and delivered in the region in 2008. The focus of the new development is also expected to shift to infill locations in Chicago as opposed to the previous focus on suburban areas with fast-growing residential populations, according to the report.

“The reason for (the increase) is really the shopping center business really trying to catch up with all of the housing growth that has taken place,” says Andy Bulson, report author and VP at Mid-America. Sporting good stores and food stores led the increase, Bulson says. Two new Bass Pro Shops and two Cabela’s opened in the Chicago area this year, he says. The increase in sporting good stores in the Chicagoland area is likely “because Chicago was previously an underserved market in that category,” Bulson says.”

Additionally, while people buy sporting good accessories at these stores, they also buy a lot of apparel for everyday wear, he says. The size of shopping centers is also increasing. An average shopping center is now 300,000 sf, and it’s common to see centers with between 600,000 sf and one million sf of space, Bulson says. While 20 years ago a 200,000-sf to 300,000-sf center was considered huge, now big box stores such as Wal-Mart and Menards are around 200,000 sf, he says.

Bulson says that he thinks retail will move slower next year. “We are coming off a period of heavy expansion,” he says. “You cannot sustain that kind of growth indefinitely. It is going to slow down at some point”

The amount expected is still way above the annual average. From 1983 through 2006, the annual average of new shopping center space was more than 4.9 million, Bulson says. “While the Midwest’s economy has been slowing down, Chicago has a very robust and diverse economy with a lot of people,” he says.

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