Reis Inc.’s preliminary look at neighborhood and community centers reveals a grim picture. During the first quarter, such properties experienced negative absorption of 8.7 million square feet—more than the entire year of 2008 combined. It is the fifth straight quarter with negative absorption. As a result, the national vacancy rate for neighborhood and community centers has reached 9.5 percent—up 60 basis points from the figure at the end of 2008 and the largest quarterly jump in vacancies since Reis began tracking the sector.

As a result of weakened demand, asking and effective rents dropped as well. Asking rents are down to $19.44 per square foot—off 20 cents from the peak reached in the second quarter of 2008. Effective rents are down to $17.11 per square foot, a 51 cent drop from the peak reached in the first quarter of 2008. The $2.33 gap between asking rents and effective rents is also the largest Reis has measured. The spread jumped by 20 cents in the last quarter alone.