Portland's downtown downturn

| Print |  Email
Friday, May 01, 2009

ATSDowntownLease

Portland’s downtown has been losing key stores.

PORTLAND It was the 25th anniversary of Pioneer Courthouse Square. The early April weather was brilliant, the cake was free, and the center was humming with visitors and workers soaking up sun and ambience. Shoppers were filing into the Nordstrom store across the street. The line inside Starbucks ran 10 people deep. One block away, the sidewalk tables in front of Elephants Deli were packed with people enjoying the gritty construction of the coming Park Avenue West skyscraper.

But the for-lease signs are creeping. Among the recent casualties in the heart of Portland are See’s Candies on SW Morrison, the City Arts shop on SW Yamhill, the Shoe Pavilion on SW Fourth, the Three Lions Bakery on SW Sixth, and Portland Cutlery Co., which sold knives on SW Broadway for more than a century. Add to that list the disconcerting recent news that Zell Bros. Jewelers, an upscale shopping destination since 1912 and the presumed anchor tenant of the remodeled Pacific First Center, is unlikely to survive the downturn, and you’ve got a problem. Especially when you factor in the construction delay at Park Avenue West.

According to a recent report by Norris, Beggs & Simpson, the overall retail vacancy rate for metropolitan Portland is a relatively strong 6.5%. But the central city, one of seven submarkets within greater Portland, has the highest vacancy rate at 8.2%. For all of Portland’s self-congratulatory claims of having defeated the sprawl beast, 2008 retail sales at suburban Washington Square topped those in all of downtown by $180 million.

These downward trends lend new urgency to an effort by 30 business leaders selected by Mayor Sam Adams to hone a downtown retail strategy based on success stories from Pasadena, Calif., Vancouver, B.C., and Boston. David Leland, a Portland-based retail strategist who has been in the business for more than 40 years, recommends recruiting urban versions of big-box stores such as Target, improving the atmosphere along SW 10th, encouraging still more residential density, turning Broadway into a two-way street, providing more street parking and creating new financing options.

Leland has consulted with more than 80 city governments about their downtowns over his career, and he remains optimistic about Portland’s position. But he predicts more stores will close before the next wave of grand openings, and he warns, “Complacency is a great danger."

BEN JACKLET
 

More Articles

Getting What You Pay For

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Chris Maples, president of the Oregon Institute of Technology.


Read more...

Farm in a Box

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.


Read more...

Child care challenge

News
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.


Read more...

Staffing Challenge

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Greg Lambert, president of Mid Oregon Personnel Services.


Read more...

Business School

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Training, from the mundane to the sublime, bolsters companies and workers in an uncertain world.


Read more...

Grain Food

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

A Power Lunch at Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Store and Restaurant.


Read more...

Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY GINA BINOLE

Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS