Just up the street from where I live stands an empty strip center, the former home of a Kroger supermarket. Kroger moved out because it built one of its fancy superstores about a quarter-mile up the road. The florist, men's clothier and beauty salon that were once Kroger's neighbors also made the move. Jose's Mexican restaurant now stands alone.

Since no one likes empty shopping centers, I thought I would offer some assistance to the leasing agent tackling this center. What retailers do I want that close to home? What product or service does my neighborhood lack?

I took a quick inventory of the retail offerings in the four strip centers in the immediate area: Kroger superstore; Eckerd Drug (new, freestanding); Blockbuster Video; World Gym & Billiards; Auto Zone; Ace Hardware; Galla's Liquors; a bicycle shop; Hallmark Cards (a Gold Crown location); and a sports trading card/collectibles shop.

We have our share of services: two drycleaners, two beauty salons, one nail shop, a florist, three gas stations with convenience stores, Goodyear Tire, Valvoline 10-minute Oil Change, a bank and two ATM huts.

Restaurants of all varieties -- Italian, Chinese, chicken wings, Southern fare, two bars, McDonald's, Philly Connection, Pizza Hut delivery, and, of course, Jose's -- also line the road.

A 1+ million sq. ft. mall is only 12 minutes away, and it is surrounded by the usual collection of big-box retailers and restaurants. And for recreation, a city park is closer to the homes in the neighborhood than the retail.

I find myself at a loss as to what use would be a winner in this location. The job of a strip center leasing agent in a strip center-rich world may be more difficult than originally thought.

I trust that the agent will prevail, however.

I had a conversation not too long ago with Stuart Halpert, chairman of First Washington Realty Trust, who told me that the key to strip center development and leasing is in developing traffic patterns and then capitalizing on them.

Every day I look for a "coming soon" sign indicating which retailer will put in the path of my neighbors and me. And then we'll wonder how we ever lived without it.

The Call for Entries for our SADI awards has begun. The awards recognize superior achievements in the design and imaging of stores and shopping centers, and anyone responsible for those designs may enter.

Entries are due Oct. 31, which is significantly earlier than previous contests. The entry rules will be sent to you if you call 1-800-288-8606 or call our Fax On Demand service at 1-800-601-3858.