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AI’s Recent Leap Forward Has Come to CRE: JLL GPT; 5 Retailers Making Headlines; and More

August 3, 2023

JLL has launched JLL GPT so its 103,000 employees can pull insights from in-house data and from external commercial property data sources to serve clients. Facility managers, for example, now use dashboards to look at real estate space utilization and portfolio optimization, and JLL GPT can turn that process into conversations with the tool that lead to more actionable decisions, the company said.

JLL calls its generative artificial intelligence the first large language model purpose-built for the commercial real estate industry. LLMs learn context from large data sets so they generate natural language text and other content. GPT stands for “Generative Pre-trained Transformers.” JLL also plans to sell JLL GPT applications to its existing clients later this year.

JLL already has deployed AI to improve building efficiencies, generate 3D leasing visualizations, calculate sustainability risks and power investment leads. For example, one in five of JLL Capital.

5 Retailers Making Headlines

Chick-Fil-A will debut two concepts next year. A drive-thru concept features a kitchen built above drive-thru lanes manned by staffers and will open in the Atlanta metro area. A walk-up concept designed for dense urban areas with foot traffic relies on orders placed via the Chick-Fil-A app and will debut in New York City.

A rendering of Chick-Fil-A’s new drive-thru concept

Apparel conglomerate Gap Inc. hired Richard Dickson as CEO. He breathed new life into Mattel’s iconic Barbie brand in his most recent role as president and CEO of Mattel, and he has worked at Bloomingdale’s and Nine West. Dickson, who has been on Gap Inc.’s board since 2022, has a daunting task ahead. The company’s sales fell 6% in the most recent fiscal year, and it lost $202 million.

China-based retailer Miniso — which sells licensed, pop culture-influenced lifestyle products — plans 20 more U.S. store openings by year’s end. The company, which already operates 80 stores across the U.S., said its Times Square flagship in New York City drew 60,000 consumers during its first month, from mid-May to mid-June. Almost all the new stores will be in malls.

Miniso’s Times Square store

Razer, a lifestyle brand for gamers that opened its first RazerStore in San Francisco in 2016, opened five shops at five Simon malls this summer, bringing its total store count to 11. The stores allow gamers to shop, gather and compete using Razer’s latest technologies and gear.

Walmart will boost income by selling ads on the 170,000 digital screens — in checkout lines, on shelves, on freezer doors and sometimes  even on shopping carts — across its 4,700 locations. The retailer also will sell ads on its in-store radio station and sell product demos and in-store events. Kroger, Target and others are testing similar programs to capitalize on foot traffic with ancillary income. Experts warn this growing trend of “retail media” could feel obtrusive to shoppers if not done effectively.

Net Lease Investments Are Getting Riskier

The market for single-tenant net lease retail properties is slowing due to rising interest rates and competition from other investment vehicles. Transaction volume for the first half of 2023 significantly lagged the pace of the first half of 2022, according to The Boulder Group. Cap rates on single-tenant net lease properties climbed 12 basis points to 6.17%. Traditionally, buyers see higher cap rate deals as riskier because they promise lower returns on investment.

Higher cap rates are causing owners to hold their properties to sell later, according to Boulder. Owners put about 20% fewer properties up for sale in the second quarter than in the first. Dollar stores’ expansion plans prompted that sector’s cap rates to rise the most among all commercial property types: 28 basis points year over year.

The pool of 1031 exchange traders that fuel the retail net lease market is becoming more shallow, and the remaining ones will buy the highest-quality properties in income tax-free states, Boulder’s report suggested.

U.S. Retail Loan Issuance Has Declined

The delinquency rate for bank-held, retail property-backed loans in the U.S. increased from 2.6% in the fourth quarter to 3.7% in the first quarter, according to Trepp, meaning borrowers are behind on more loans. Banks also cut back on issuance of retail loans by 34% between in the first quarter. It was the third quarter in a row that the retail origination volume decreased. In the meantime, industrial property delinquencies have remained flat while the biggest jump in delinquencies came in the lodging sector.

RioCan Launches Scholarship Program for Black Students

RioCan is working to create a new generation of Black leaders in Canadian commercial real estate. The company, which owns and manages 33.5 million square feet across 191 properties, is partnering with the nonprofit BlackNorth Initiative to offer a Canadian Real Estate & Trades Bursary for Black students entering post-secondary programs within the commercial real estate field at accredited schools.

The scholarship program launched this July and will disperse $21,200 Canadian dollars for the fall 2023 semester.

“Easing the financial burden for Black students interested in commercial real estate starts to tackle some of the systemic barriers that Black students have historically faced in Canada and can contribute to increasing representation in the industry,” said RioCan president and CEO Jonathan Gitlin. “We are proud to support the next generation of Black real estate professionals as they begin their careers.”

The scholarship goes beyond a financial investment. RioCan also will provide recipients with mentorship and internship opportunities. RioCan’s diversity, equity and inclusion scholarship program launched in 2021 to support students identifying as historically disadvantaged at Toronto Metropolitan University and the University of Alberta.

THIS WEEK FROM ICSC: ICSC Foundation Partners with Project Destined to Launch Retail Real Estate Bridge Program

By Brannon Boswell

Executive Editor, Commerce + Communities Today


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