The decline of the tacky strip mall

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Story by Ben Jacklet // Photos by Adam Bacher

0511_StripMall_01Follow McLoughlin Boulevard south out of Portland, past the gentleman’s club with the $5 steak special and the sprawling vacant lot next door, and you can get a wide-angle view of the reality of arterial strip development as it is. The 4.5-mile stretch of state highway from Milwaukie to Oregon City is a random mix of the weird, the cheap and the ugly: a restaurant with a bomber plane parked out front, a replica of the Statue of Liberty, a rectangular mountain of storage space, a huge “no-credit, no-problem” auto lot, a motel next door to a strip club with rooms starting at $29 per night, a 66,000-square-foot former GI Joe’s sporting goods store available, for sale or lease.

In the middle of this urban planning disaster is a strip mall with twin turrets built from residential-style brick, the Green Castle Retail Center. The buildings are attractive enough to stand out in a sea of hastily constructed eyesores, but the attempt at transformation they represent is daunting. Property owner Joe Green III says he and his father invested in the area and fixed up the property on the belief that “McLoughlin only has one direction to go, and that’s up.”

Not far from the Green Castle, plans are being made for a new light rail station. With light rail could come transit-oriented development, mixed-use density. A team of consultants is making plans for a more coherent future. But the gap is vast between Oregon’s urban planning ideals and the current realities on McLoughlin and other suburban-style strips from Beaverton to Salem to Medford.

Even with its vaunted land use laws, Oregon is no stranger to strip mall sprawl. Metropolitan Portland contains over 400 miles of arterial commercial strips heavily laden with every variety of retail space. Head west out Canyon Road to Beaverton, south along 99W from Tigard to McMinnville, or east along Powell Boulevard from 82nd Avenue to Gresham, and you might just as well be touring the suburbs of Atlanta or Indianapolis: huge parking lots, congested intersections, national chain stores squeezing out any semblance of regional identity.

These areas fit the profile of convenience-driven strip development in that they are auto-oriented, endless and, well, ugly. They are also increasingly distressed. The latest in-depth retail report from Portland-based Norris Beggs & Simpson finds a steadily improving overall retail vacancy rate of 6.3% for the Portland market (significantly lower than the national rate of 7.2%), with major improvements in central city, neighborhood and regional shopping centers. The most troubled sub-category by far is “strip convenience,” with a vacancy rate of 18.2%.

Nationally, the Wall Street Journal has reported that strip mall vacancies continued to rise even after the recession ended. Locally, the picture is mixed. “If you have a grocery-anchored center you’re OK, because people still need to eat,” says J.J. Unger, a retail specialist for Norris, Beggs & Simpson. “But if you’re in a center that wasn’t designed properly, that doesn’t have an anchor, those are the guys having issues.”

 



 

Comments   

 
Kevin Matthews - ArchitectureWeek
0 #1 Like West 11th in Eugene...Kevin Matthews - ArchitectureWeek 2011-04-27 12:53:38
The strip-convenien ce leapfrog scenario seems to describe West 11th Avenue in Eugene, along with the areas mentioned in the article.

Community leaders of Eugene from all around the political spectrum met in a consensus format from 2007 through 2009 and produced a shared vision for how to actively redevelop that two-mile strip into a new walkable main street for West Eugene:

http://www.eugeneneighbors.org/wiki/West_Eugene_Collaborative
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

The Good Hacker

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY CHRIS HIGGINS

As digital security breaches skyrocket, a cybersleuth everyman takes center stage.


Read more...

Picture This

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

As a general rule, the more people with autism can be provided with visual cues, the better they will be able to understand and manage their environment. It’s a lesson Tom Keating learned well. The 61-year-old Eugene grant writer spent 31 years taking care of his autistic brother James, and in the late 1980s developed a spreadsheet that created a series of nonsense characters that grew or shrank depending on how much money James had in his account. 


Read more...

5 questions for inDinero CEO Jessica Mah

The Latest
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
jessicathumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.


Read more...

The ancient fish that stops bullets

The Latest
Friday, May 08, 2015
hagfishthumbBY CHRIS NOBLE | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Hagfish may not have evolved much over the last 300 million years, but their protein-heavy slime promises advances in super-materials.


Read more...

5 ways successful people kickstart the day

The Latest
Thursday, April 02, 2015
coffeethumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Are mornings the most productive part of the day?  We ask five successful executives how they get off to a good start.


Read more...

Footloose

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Founded 12 years ago, Keen Inc. likes to push the envelope, starting with the debut of the “Newport” closed toe sandal in 2003. Since then, the company has opened a factory on Swan Island and a sleek new headquarters in the Pearl District. The brand’s newest offering, UNEEK, is a sandal made from two woven cords and not much more.


Read more...

Can small be large?

Linda Baker
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
040115-lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.


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