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April 28th, 2010Q&A: Mall CEO bullish on Houston retail

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by David Kaplan

Texas — In Houston, Simon Property Group owns the Galleria, Katy Mills and Houston Premium Outlets.

Big names in this area, the three properties are just a fraction of the Indianapolis-based company’s holdings. Simon is the largest public real estate company in the U.S. and the No. 1 mall owner.

Still growing, Simon is trying to gain a stake in General Growth Partners, which filed for Chapter 11. In the Houston area, General Growth owns the Woodlands, Willowbrook, Baybrook, First Colony and Deerbrook Malls.

Simon’s chairman and CEO, David Simon, was in town earlier this week as keynote speaker at the Texas A&M Real Estate Roundtable Speaker Series luncheon at the Renaissance Houston Greenway Plaza Hotel. He said he wasn’t allowed to share much on General Growth, but did give his take on retail, shopping centers and more.

Retailers are regaining their footing, he believes. “They’ve been very focused on their margins” and lowering their costs, “including getting their rent down, which doesn’t thrill me.” And while chains have slowly begun to increase their store base, any significant newdevelopment for retail is still three to five years off, he said.

Online retailers will significantly hurt the brick-and-mortar stores that don’t upgrade their shopping experience, he said.

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