In his assessment of the Salt Lake Area's commercial real estate market, Doug Richards, president of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors, said the most significant change last year was in the apartment segment where the vacancy rate declined from 9.8 percent a year earlier to a low 3.4 percent in November, 1990. Some apartment communities, he said, raised their rents more than 10 percent last year.

Here are some other highlights of Richards' report on commercial real estate:INDUSTRIAL SPACE: Vacancies declined 1 percent to 2 percent last year when some 4 million square feet of space was absorbed along the Wasatch Front. Rents remained stable.

OFFICE SPACE: Some 210,000 square feet of space was absorbed downtown last year (up from 67,000 in 1989) while suburban office buildings absorbed 393,000 square feet (up from an increase in vacant space of 49,000 square feet in 1989). Downtown office vacancy rates declined from 19 percent in 1989 to 16 percent in '90, a net absorption of 3 percent.

RETAIL SPACE: New large tenants such as ShopKo, Wal-Mart and Toys R Us dominated the Wasatch Front retail market in 1990, said Richards. Overall vacancies in the smaller retail tenant space declined but many small strip centers suffer from a lack of large tenants. High traffic areas, such as regional malls, will see the most action this year.

Richards doesn't expect much change in 1991 locally for commercial real estate overall, mainly due to tax laws, tougher financing requirements and somewhat softer rental rates for office space.