Impressions from the Show So Far

Things kicked into gear in earnest Monday at ICSC's RECon with the opening of the Leasing Mall. For the most part, people I talked to remained cautiously optimistic about the industry's prospects. At the same time, attendance did seem noticeably down from last year in spite of ICSC maintaining that pre-registration levels matched last year's figures. I heard a lot of people saying that they had truncated their trip this year--perhaps cramming their meetings into one or two days rather than staying here for all four. Others told me they knew of some people that registered, but then ultimately decided not to make the trek.

Still, despite the apparent drop in attendance, there is plenty of dealmaking occurring. Developers Diversified Realty, for example, had 1,400 meetings set up. Other major owners and developers remained equally busy.

And there are clear signs for optimism. While retailer closings are at their highest levels in several years, there have not been a ton of bankruptcies. Further, there do remain a healthy number of new concepts out looking for space. Owners of top-tier properties especially seem in a good position having experienced very little erosion of their tenant base or of their property values in the past 18 months.

Lastly, there's some definite good news on the debt front. While the commercial mortgage-backed securities market remains locked up, several REITs in recent weeks have been able to tap the credit markets with new bond offerings. Westfield and Simon Property Group, for example, have both issued new bonds and found healthy demand from bond investors for the offerings. That's a sign that perhaps the credit crunch is beginning to pass.

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