|The decline of the tacky strip mall|
The strip mall is also becoming more local. Popular Oregon retailers and eateries such as New Seasons Market, Powell’s Books, McMenamins brew pubs, Pastini Pastaria and Café Yumm have found their way into suburban strips long dominated by Home Depot, Old Navy and other national chains. And strip-style locations throughout close-in Portland have adapted to welcome brewpubs, food carts and indie clothing stores.
Even some McLoughlin-like strips along state highways from Ashland to Lake Oswego have been redesigned to improve neighborhood ambience. Successful examples range from Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland to State Street in Lake Oswego and Macadam Avenue in Southwest Portland.
But as popular as these small adaptations may be in certain neighborhoods, they do little to reverse the powerful trend of shoppers abandoning older strips in favor of newer destination shopping centers further away from the city center. Popular malls such as Bridgeport Village in Tigard and Tualatin, completed in May 2005, adapted early to the consumer demand for amenities that go beyond the usual endless sea of parking lots, and as a result they held up much better during the recession than their older competitors.
“It’s not just about demographics anymore,” says Fatima Al-Dahwi, a retail project manager with Portland-based Leland Consulting Group. “It’s about creating a place where people want to spend time. One of the products of the economic downturn is that retailers are very focused on experience enhancement online. We’ve gotten away from the Field of Dreams model — ‘Build it and they will come.’ You’ve got to engage shoppers.”