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More Retail Heavy-Hitters

Food's become a shopping center trend, whether it's a specialty grocer or upscale eats delivered to your theater seat. (The way to investors' wallets is through their stomachs.) This morning, some 225 people attended Bisnow's Retail Real Estate Summit. Here's a look at some of our panelists, with full coverage later this week.

We caught up with NewMark Merrill Cos prez Sandy Sigal—he and his family just came back from Costa Rica, where Sandy tells us he discovered the only thing more exciting than development: whitewater rafting. (That's him in front, with kids William and Sabrina, and their rafting guide.) That said, there's plenty of excitement at NMMC, including the recent groundbreaking for the $80M, 475k SF Village at the Peaks in conjunction with the redevelopment agency of Longmont, Colo. It's anchored by Whole Foods, Regal Cinemas, and Sam's Club. The shopping center biz is still competitive, he notes, but the company's had three years of escalating leasing activity.

Recently, NMMC opened a 16k SF BevMo in Vista and a Walmart Neighborhood Market at Thousand Oaks Marketplace. In addition, the company is about to break ground on a Walmart Supercenter at a center in Rialto. NMMC started a tech division, Bright Street. Sandy says it serves dual purposes: helping with the company's back office operations and as a tool to help retailers use the Internet to enhance their service and online presence.

With two centers totaling 900k SF underway in Rocklin, Donahue Schriber expects to have a juggernaut on either side of the I-80 Freeway at Sierra College Boulevard. President Larry Casey says the project will boast the Sacramento region's first Studio Movie Grill, an in-theater dining concept (with cocktails!). The project's being developed in phases, with Target and Walmart already open. The company continues to redo its 275k SF Del Mar Highlands Town Center. Surveys revealed that neighborhood residents wanted healthier, high-quality food options, so Donahue Schriber brought in operators like Jimbo's...Naturally! and Cinepolis (similar to Studio Movie Grill). Larry, a Notre Dame alum, is looking forward to college football season.

Sweet 16 has a whole new meaning for Regency Centers. Managing director-West Mac Chandler tells us the company recently completed the 77k SF Juanita Tate Marketplace—having worked on it for 16 years. The former brownfield was tied up in litigation and environmental clean-up work. The project, a partnership with a local nonprofit, is anchored by Northgate Gonzalez. Later this year, the company plans to break ground on the Village at La Floresta, an 80k SF center that will boast north Orange County's first Whole Foods market. One trend Mac sees: handpicking strong local restaurant operators. But they're not done yet: Regency's also redeveloping three shopping centers in Westlake Village, connecting and rebranding them as one center. Mac, his wife and two daughters just got back from Park City, Utah.

As president of BIG Shopping Centers USA, Stan McElroy's responsibilities include executing the company's growth strategy. At the end of this month, the company will close on more than $100M of properties, which follows the acquisition of a center in Kansas City, Mo., in June and a 90% interest in two centers in Atlanta earlier this year. Many of you likely remember Stan from CBRE where he spent more than 31 years, leasing institutional-quality shopping centers in California and repping retailers like Target, Home Depot, Kroger, Safeway, CVS and Crate and Barrel. The avid UCLA football fan likes traveling with wife Ellen and family, and going to the beach with Butter, their Golden Retriever.

According to Faris Lee Investments president Rick Chichester (one of our moderators, snapped this morning) SoCal is one of the top five high-demand markets in the country for retail real estate acquisitions. As strong as the market is, however, he's seeing discipline among clients and cautions everyone to be diligent in their underwriting. There's still more capital than product, financing is robust, and first- and second-tier properties usually have multiple offers. Rick's expecting another shopping center customer, er, grandbaby in six months.