Intent on shedding its image as a highly fragmented industry, commercial real estate continues to experience a wave of consolidation. For industry veterans, it's like watching a game of PacMan. The giants of the industry are gobbling up smaller players and each other at a healthy clip.

In June, for example, two heavyweight REITs in the industrial arena announced plans to merge. ProLogis, which specializes in warehouse distribution globally, agreed to buy Catellus Development Corp. for $4.9 billion. Why? The main attraction is that Catellus has a large land bank of 1,500 acres that can accommodate almost 30 million sq. ft. of new development in top distribution markets. ProLogis already owns 224.5 million sq. ft. of industrial space in the U.S. This new development capability makes ProLogis the powerhouse in the industrial warehouse and distribution sector.

The retail landscape is much the same, with companies like General Growth Properties and The Macerich Co. bulking up on acquisitions. The “Best of the Best” compendium of surveys and the accompanying analysis pieces that precede them capture this trend and others. The surveys cover five property sectors — office, industrial, retail, hotel and multifamily.

An e-mail questionnaire was sent to 500 companies in April. Only the top 25 companies in each category appear. The survey data covers the 2004 calendar year.

The ranking of the top shopping center owners was originally published in NREI's sister publication, Retail Traffic. Results to the brokerage survey compiled by NREI first appeared in the April issue. Rankings of the top apartment owners and managers were tabulated by the National Multi Housing Council and were also originally printed in the April issue. The rankings of direct lenders and financial intermediaries compiled by NREI first appeared in the May issue.