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CHICAGO-Mid-America Real Estate Corp. reports it is seeing continuing strength in the North and Clybourn retail submarket, despite economic challenges that are beginning to cripple other areas in the city. The region has historically been a strong one, ever since the early 1990s when Whole Foods, Home Depot, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, Container Store and Cost Plus World Market became among the first big-name retailers to stake out a place in the burgeoning new neighborhood. Several retailers who entered with small amount of retail in the market in its early days, such as Sam’s Wine & Spirits, now enjoy a larger space in their own freestanding buildings, according to associate Matt Gould.

“Over the past 15 to 18 years, it has always been a strong trade area,” Gould tells GlobeSt.com. “It’s an established trade area that already has strong retail along North Avenue. The residential is there too, and the demographics are very strong.”

Despite the fact that vacancies are increasing almost across the board, Gould says he sees the North and Clybourn area as an exception to the rule. “Everyone is assessing risks going into any area now, but one of the good things is that you don’t have to give a big sales pitch when you bring a retailer to Lincoln Park,” he says. “There’s a reason there’s 10-to-12 national retailers around North and Clybourn.”

Gould says land is running out as demand remains high in the North/Clybourn area. “Arguably the largest piece left was the 8-acre New City site,” Gould says. The one-million-square-foot mixed-use New City development will bring more than 400,000 square feet of retail space. The retail space, at Clybourn and Halsted, is planned to open in summer 2010 and will be anchored by an 80,000-square-foot Roundy’s Supermarket.

Gould cites the recent REI lease as another example of the submarket’s strength, even in the face of adversity. This fall, retailer REI opened a 34,000-square-foot store at the TruServ site at Halsted and Blackhawk – a development which will consist of 75,000 square feet of medical office space and 100,000 square feet of retail. “Times are tough right now, but REI saw that the existing retailers do very well there. Their opening their first city location at North and Clybourn says something about the numbers retailers can do there.”

In a time when most submarkets are contracting, Mid-America said the North and Clybourn area is set to add another 600,000 square feet of retail in the next two years. “A lot of people like shopping on Michigan Avenue, but from an accessibility standpoint, it’s not easy to park or to get in and out of stores with large purchases,” Gould says. “It’s easier on North Avenue.”

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