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We’re spending the week in the Anchorage area, checking out some of the many real estate projects underway here and thought it would be a good opportunity talk about the area’s retail market.Alaska might not be the first state on you minds when it comes to retailing, but they do have some interesting things going on, especially in this city of about 280,000 people.Not surprisingly, the area is under retailed compared to other parts of the country, called the “Lower 48″ in these parts. While some US markets are experiencing store closures, Anchorage residents seem to want more store openings.Ciri, a development corporation owned by indigenous Alaskans, is building the $100-million Tikahtnu Commons in the northeast part of the city, to open in the fall. The development, in a joint venture with Oakland, CA-based Browman Development Co., will be home to the state’s first Target, fifth Lowe’s and possibly second Best Buy.We’re used to hearing about chains closing their stores lately, so it’s refreshing to find a place that’s not over stored where many of our larger national outfits don’t have a strong presence.Says Margaret Brown, Ciri’s president and CEO, it’s not always easy to convince retailers to come to an out-of-the way area where products need to be shipped long distances. But Target executives have told her that their move to the area will help them fine tune their plans to expand internationally.”This is kind of a test market for them,” Brown says.It can be a challenge to persuade retailers to come to Alaska, she says, but Ciri is planning another, similar center on the south side of Anchorage. When asked if she is worried about opening a new center in this economic climate, Brown says there is so much demand and few stores in the area that she is confident her projects will lease up.”Obviously we would like the economy in the national to be better, but we still feel like we’re making progress here,” she says.Are there any other areas of the country that are still ripe for retail growth, or is this really the final frontier?Look later this week for a second and final installment of Counter Culture’s Alaska retail observations.

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