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Heard on the Floor

A couple of years ago Google's appearance at the Trade Expo set off all kinds of buzz. But Tempe, Ariz.-based Aerial Express, which has produced aerial views and maps for developers for nearly 50 years, isn't sure what all the fuss was about. Google was there again. And Aerial Express thinks its product holds up against the competition. “Aerial Express updates its maps every year whereas Google's maps are three to five years old in some cases,” says Bill Landis, president. “They even use some of our outdated maps.” Aerial Express' maps range from $4,500 for a small city up to $20,000 for a map of Southern California…. Callison, which has completed projects in China, the Arab Emirates and Russia, and is now getting into Libya, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco, prefers to work on overseas projects with local developers rather than U.S.-based companies. “Generally, they are less experienced, but they have local support and local connections and an understanding of the government agencies, so it's more likely that their projects will actually happen,” says Robert J. Tindall, principal and president of Seattle, Wash.-based architecture and planning firm Callison…. In some of the hottest retail markets in the country investors — particularly foreign capital and 1031 exchange buyers — are increasingly willing to acquire redevelopment projects before they have even become stabilized. The demand is so great in Florida, for example, that Pointe Development Co. is working on launching an “Advanced Acquisition Program” to market such deals, according to Alex Nigri, the firm's vice president of business development. The firm acquires and begins master leasing strip and power centers in need of some work and is generally able to flip the properties in 18 to 24 months even before its re-leasing program is fully worked out…. With competition for established retailers more intense, the Macerich Co. has launched a new program called Mac 50 to improve communication and feedback between Macerich and 50 of its biggest tenants on what the retailers are looking for in a shopping center, which areas they would like to expand into and how Macerich can best help them achieve their goals. For example, there have been instances when prospective tenants would disapprove of the company's site plans for a particular center — Macerich would then go back and rework the plans to fit their needs…. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now held a press conference at the show criticizing the recent proliferation of mall curfews. The organizations say that some youths — particularly people of color — are being unfairly targeted by mall management and security officers. “We see a strong link between treating customers and workers fairly,” says Mike Blain, senior campaign communications specialist for SEIU. “We're concerned about the harassment of young Black and Latino shoppers.” The press conference tied curfews with SEIU's efforts to unionize security officers and janitors. Last year it reached deals with both Simon Property Group and Westfield America. This year, its efforts seem to be focused on General Growth Properties, who was the main company cited during the press conference…. The United States Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Center announced a partnership with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. to encourage local leaders to combat global warming in cities by launching an annual Mayors' Climate Protection Awards Program. It will honor efforts in areas such as greening of municipal buildings facilities and operations; improving local air quality; reducing carbon dioxide emissions and combating climate change locally; increasing the use of energy-efficient products and transportation, including mass transit; and supporting green housing projects…. Developers Diversified Realty is teaming with acclaimed Brazilian artist Romero Britto to tour his painting and sculptures at 13 of its lifestyle centers beginning this fall. Most of the centers will be in markets with affluent Hispanic populations…. The Inland Real Estate Group of Companies, Inc. has formed Atlanta-based Inland Atlantic Development Corp. that will develop centers in the southeastern U.S. It will be headed by many of the former senior managers of Inland Retail Real Estate Trust, Inc., which was acquired by Developers Diversified earlier this year for $6.2 billion…. As the real estate industry's focus shifts away from traditional single-use properties to mixed-use projects, department stores are having a hard time adjusting to their loss of power, according to Sheldon Halpern, an attorney with Pircher, Nichols & Meeks. Though these retailers see a future for themselves in mixed-use projects they want to exert the same kind of control over parking and neighbors as they used to in regional malls. However, developers are no longer willing to accommodate them because mixed-use projects often involve several different property owners. “They are used to having their fairly definitive criteria and controlling the entire center, but there needs to be a more creative approach to dealing with them,” he says…. “The enclosed mall has become a dinosaur. Mixed-use is where our focus lies,” says Erwin L. Greenberg, chairman of the board with Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corp. Greenberg also dismissed the notion that developers may be putting too many mixed-use projects in the hopper. “I'm not worried too much,” he says…. Lenders continue to be creative in how they are financing projects. For example, KeyBank Real Estate Capital has started a program to offer 80 percent nonrecourse financing for projects in transition, according to Daniel Walsh Jr., managing director of the firm's private equity group. “It's something developers are demanding and it makes sense for assets that are being renovated and can become really great projects.” … Phillips Edison & Co., owners and managers of 18 million square feet of neighborhood and community centers, are undertaking something a little outside that scope. The firm is building the Blue Sky Corporate Ranch near Park City, Utah on 3,000 acres. The facility will include a 26,000-square-foot conference center with 12,000 square feet of meeting space, an amphitheater, a 6,400-square-foot wellness center and other amenities. The firm will use the facility itself, but will also allow other companies to rent the facility.

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