Retail N Illinois

Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference hits attendance record

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The 11th annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast held yesterday in Chicago set a record: 1,027 commercial real estate professionals attended the event, packing the hallways and conference rooms of the Chicago Sheraton Hotel & Towers.

The 11th annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast held yesterday in Chicago set a record: 1,027 commercial real estate professionals attended the event, packing the hallways and conference rooms of the Chicago Sheraton Hotel & Towers.

Not even the bitter temperatures hitting downtown Chicago could keep attendees away.

"Every year it seems that this conference is getting bigger," said Mark Menzies, group publisher of Illinois Real Estate Journal, which, along with sister publications Chicago Industrial Properties and Midwest Real Estate News, sponsored the event.

"It's becoming the go-to conference for real estate professionals, the one people attend to hear real, unfiltered predictions about the state of our industry," Menzies said.

Each year, the conference attracts the biggest names in commercial real estate to speak. This year was no exception. Christopher Kennedy, chairman of Joseph Kennedy Enterprises, and Dan Ryan, Midwest market director of Jones Lang LaSalle, kicked off the event with an early-morning fireside chat. Kennedy, of course, is responsible for the development of the Wolf Point real estate holdings in Chicago that includes the famed Merchandise Mart complex.

Some highlights from this year's conference, tidbits that attendees would have picked up:

- Companies are no longer simply moving their headquarters to the home towns of their CEOs. Instead, they're looking for locations that allow them to reach the greatest number of skilled workers.

- Expect even more niche grocers to descend on the Chicago market. This is one segment of the retail industry that continues to boom.

- Adaptive reuse of old commercial buildings remains a hot trend. Developers are turning old office buildings and industrial facilities into multi-family complexes. They're even turning vacant office buildings into large-scale self-storage facilities.

- 2013 should be a strong year for the retail segment, especially for discount operators. Consumers are still wary of spending big money, but they're opening their wallets for the Walmarts and Family Dollars of the world.

- Multi-family is showing no signs of slowing down. This remains the hottest commercial segment, and the Chicago area is still one of the stronger multi-family markets.