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This year at the International Council of Shopping Centers RECon conference is different from any we’ve ever been to. Of course, we’re not a serious industry veteran (hey we’re in our 30s…give us a break), but it’s been about seven years now.Things are definitely slower here, but it’s not all doom and gloom. John Bemis, Jones Lang LaSalle’s director of leasing and development, says that Maurice’s has aggressive expansion plans and is targeting 50 new stores this year. The firm also has a report out saying that buyers looking at distressed assets will have plenty of opportunities and lower gas prices, coupled with the stimulus package, could increase consumer confidence, giving retailers a sales boost. For their part, Jones Lang has 2,000 meetings in just over two days, Bemis reports.Ray Brunt, a founding partner of Columbus, OH-based Stanbery Development tells us that though things are quiet right now, he is having “quality appointments.” Stanbery also has the best booth giveaway we’ve seen so far: They have swine flu influenced face masks with the works “rent relief” crossed out.Madison Marquette is doing a lot of cool stuff, including an “American Idol” kind of contest for aspiring retail tenants. We’ll cover that more in depth later.What else? Oh yeah…Sam Zell is kind of crazy. You can see what I wrote about him on my Twitter feed.

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