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Engaging Topics Headline ICSC Conference

The theme of this year's ICSC Western Division Conference, "Retail Developments: Different Places & Different Spaces," highlights three topics - large-scale reuse developments, making old downtowns new, and retail in the resort setting. Scheduled for Oct. 6-8 at the Marriott Desert Springs Resort in Palm Desert, Calif., the conference promises to offer engaging discussions.

"These aren't going to be talking heads, bur rather in-your-face interviews," says Steve McArthur, co-chairman of the ICSC Western Conference program planning committee and vice president of development in the Irvine, Calif., office of Northwest Atlantic Partners.

The conference will challenge attendees to find non-traditional places for retailing. "We want to take our blinders off," McArthur says. "The education portion of the conference is to get people to think differently about new opportunities and new venues."

McArthur anticipates discussion regarding retail in resorts, airports, closed military bases and train stations.

Linda Sonnonstine, a public relations consultant with Sonnonstine Public Relations in Long Beach, Calif., and a member of the planning committee, says another hot topic at the conference will be the role of the Internet in traditional bricks and mortar retail.

One resort that will be discussed is Disney's new California Adventure theme park. There are also many examples of airport retail, as it continues to grow.

Closed military bases in California are also being considered for non-traditional retail developments. Several bases have closed in the San Francisco Bay Area, McArthur notes, adding that there is no longer any naval presence in the San Francisco Bay.

"Communities and governing bodies are trying to figure out the best uses for these closed bases," adds Sonnonstine. "Some of that is retailing or mixed-use. There are a lot of challenges because there is environmental clean-up involved."

Whether it's a military base, or an urban site, retail developers at the Western Conference will focus on reuse. Another example of this type of project is Mission Bay, an old rail yard in San Francisco.

Still another trend in California and elsewhere is the revitalization of downtowns. Examples include Staples Center in Los Angeles and Times Square in New York.

"They say you would not have wanted to be in Times Square 20 years ago, but now it is cleaned up and has great retail," Sonnonstine says. "Often, people say California and New York are where the trends start."

While developers now realize the potential to bring retail to non-traditional sites and reuse land, many questions remain about how to proceed. "Under the right circumstances, you can convert anything to retail," McArthur says. "We will be asking our panelists, 'What are the right circumstances? What works best?'"

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