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

“Retail
Leasing Fundamentals Improving at a Glacial Pace”
by Elaine Misonzhnik of
Retail Traffic.

Retail sector fundamentals showed only slight improvement in
the fourth quarter of 2012, and researchers warn that the sector could continue
to struggle with the broader U.S. economy showing slow improvement, Misonzhnik
reports.

The vacancy rate for neighborhood and community shopping
centers averaged 10.7 percent in the fourth quarter, a decrease of 30 basis
points from the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Reis. Asking rents only
showed a 0.5 percent increase year-over-year, to $19.08 per square foot.

Regional malls saw a 60-basis-point decline in average
vacancy rate, to 8.6 percent. Asking rents in those malls rose 1 percent during
2012, to $39.31 per square foot.

“Retail
into Seniors Housing: A Natural Progression”
by Robert Carr for National
Real Estate Investor.

City officials and developers nationwide are looking at
replacing underperforming retail properties with seniors housing, after the
latter entered 2013 as one of the top sectors in terms of demand and investment,
Carr reports.

The seniors housing occupancy rate has risen consistently
for the past 11 quarters, reaching 89.1 percent in the fourth quarter,
according to a report from the National Investment Center for the Seniors
Housing & Care Industry. As Baby Boomers age, the demand for seniors
housing will continue to grow, Carr notes.

“Every community has a dead big box or vacant strip mall
that’s often a prime site for seniors housing,” said Georgia Tech professor and
redevelopment expert Ellen Dunham-Jones. “This matches the demand, as the
seniors are still there in the community, and they don’t want to leave.”

“A
Third of Barnes & Noble Stores May Close in Next Decade, Report Says”

by Tiffany Hsu of The Los Angeles Times.

Barnes & Noble, which now has 689 physical stores, will
end up with 450 to 500 stores in 10 years, according to Mitchell Klipper, chief
executive of Barnes & Noble’s retail group.

As reading habits change and digital publications evolve,
the growth rate for Barnes & Noble stores has shriveled, with the company
opening only two stores this fiscal year, Hsu reports. 

“Las
Vegas Area Leads U.S. in Home-Construction Gains”
by Prashant Gopal of
Bloomberg. 

Las Vegas had the biggest increase housing starts in the
fourth quarter, despite being one of the hardest-hit cities during the real
estate crash.

Construction of single-family homes rose 96 percent in the
Las Vegas area, 92 percent in Naples, Fla., and 91 percent in Atlanta,
according to a report from Metrostudy. The average U.S. city experienced a 47
percent increase.

Demand is starting to pick up as mortgage rates near record
lows and employment improves, Gopal notes.

“The Las Vegas market is coming back, but the percentage
gains look astronomical because of low numbers we’ve been seeing up to now,”
said Brad Hunter, chief economist of Metrostudy, to Gopal.

“Some
Assembly Required: FCRC Builds Modular Apartment Tower”
by Bendix Anderson
for National Real Estate Investor.

A residential high-rise tower slated for the Atlantic Yards
development in Brooklyn, N.Y., will be largely built in a factory, Anderson
reports.

The foundation and steel framing of the tower will be built
onsite, but the interiors of the apartments will be constructed at a factory. The
factory-assembled modules will include sets of rooms that will be lifted into
place by cranes to be attached to the building’s steel frame.

“This will be the tallest building in the world using
modular technology,” Bruce Ratner, chairman and CEO of FCRC, told Anderson.