[caption id="attachment_19254" align="alignright" width="234" caption="Jennifer Hibbitts"][/caption]

The Marin County retail shopping centers market ended 2009 in a healthy condition with a vacancy of 6.3 percent compared with the balance of the state. This market kept its resiliency in 2009 despite the economic troubles, reporting no change in vacancy year-over-year.

The average asking rental rate for shop space was $33.78 per square foot NNN at year-end 2009, an increase of $5.91 from this time last year.

There are three re-development projects that will continue to be watched in 2010 in Marin. At Pacheco Plaza in southern Novato, Paradise Foods opened in the former 22,000-square-foot Safeway space in October 2009. This is Paradise Foods’ second store. The remaining 50,000 square feet of shop space is slowly being re-positioned with more upscale, boutique retailers.

Macerich-owned Northgate Mall in San Rafael, anchored by Sears and Macy’s, had its official grand re-opening in the fourth quarter 2009 after a full-scale renovation, transforming the more than 40-year-old center into a more modern shopping environment. New upscale and lifestyle-type tenants at the mall include BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, H&M, Buckle, Panera Bread, Vans Shoes, Tilly’s, PacSun, Verizon, T Mobile, Chipotle and Forever 21. Kohl’s backfilled the former Mervyn’s space at the center, and Rite Aid is moving to a newly built pad location at the front of the center.

At Marin Country Mart, , a 173,000-square-foot center formerly called Larkspur Landing, new owner J.S. Rosenfield & Co. of Santa Monica continues to pursue plans to reposition the center as a "country mart," which it describes as "an intimate non-anchored, open air, public environment with services, shops, boutiques and food purveyors."

Other centers to watch in 2010 include Vintage Oaks in Novato, which intends to transition to a more lifestyle-focused center by backfilling its 46,000 square feet of vacancy with more upscale tenants and restaurants. The 621,000-square-foot center is anchored by Costco and Target. At Strawberry Village in Mill Valley, the prime 10,000-square-foot Smith & Hawken remains vacant, with plans for demising the space for a two-tenant scenario. The Village in Corte Madera, typically fully leased and commanding the highest rents in Marin, has approximately 20,000 square feet of vacancy to fill.

Asking rents and vacancy levels will remain fairly strong in the well-anchored, established centers in Marin along the Highway 101 corridor. Neighborhood and strip centers and less well-positioned centers will have slow deal velocity and will have to provide rental or other concessions to attract new users and retain existing tenants.