Each Wednesday, The Wrap presents a compilation of recent noteworthy commercial real estate stories from a variety of publications. Here are five stories that caught our eyes in recent days:

Hartman simons commercial real estate blog wednesday wrap“American Cities Are Revitalizing Their Downtowns and Recreating Their Profiles” – By Susan Piperato of National Real Estate Investor. Cities across the country are revamping their downtowns, even during the Great Recession. This article looks at how four cities – Miami; Newark, N.J.; Oakland, Calif; and Oklahoma City – have pumped new life into their central business districts.

In each case, development agencies have lured businesses, retailers and residents by successfully combating unfavorable images of their cities. Newark and Oakland officials have had to deal with perceptions that their downtowns are crime-ridden, while Oklahoma City has been saddled with the image that it’s too reliant on the oil industry.

Cities “live on the back of a story about themselves,” Alan Greenberger, Philadelphia’s deputy mayor for planning development, told Piperato. “And sometimes it might be old and outdated.”

“Construction Jobs Grow but ‘Too Many States’ Still Suffering” – by Erika Morphy of GlobeSt.com. Construction jobs increased in 30 states from February 2011 to February 2012, according to a recent analysis of Labor Department data by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Eighteen states suffered declines during that timeframe, while the numbers remained the same in two states.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association, said in a statement that the numbers are encouraging but added, “The industry is still struggling in too many states to declare that construction is in full recovery.”

“Economy Watch: Consumers Feeling Pretty Good” – by Dees Stribling for Multi-Housing News. The Reuter’s/University of Michigan Consumer Index, which measures the optimism of households about their financial condition, reached 76.2 in March, up slightly from 75.3 in February and the highest mark since early 2011.

Consumer spending also reached a seven-month high in February, according to numbers recently released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Spending was up by 0.8 percent when compared to January.

“Retail Construction Starts to Stay at Record Lows Until Debt Maturities Are Resolved” – by Elaine Misonzhnik of Retail Traffic. The retail sector is definitely showing signs of improvement, but it’s likely to be a while before developers feel bullish enough to begin new construction. There are, however, some exceptions.

“In strong gateway markets, there is an appetite for financing new projects—provided they’ve got a good credit tenant base,” Bill Rose, director of Marcus & Millichap’s National Retail Group, told Misonzhnik. “There are projects getting financed in Washington D.C., Baltimore, New York and Houston, but they need a good story and a good tenant mix. If you are saying to the lender ‘Can we get a deal done somewhere in Wisconsin?’ the answer is ‘Probably not.’”

• VIDEO: “Commercial Real Estate Over-Leveraged, Neidich Says” from Businessweek.com. Daniel Neidich, CEO of Dune Real Estate Partners, discusses what he sees as the weaknesses of the U.S. commercial real estate market.