Sponsored by Lane Powell

The decline of the tacky strip mall

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

By national standards, Oregon is considered “under-retailed,” with 18.9 square feet of shopping center space per capita compared to the national average of 23.7 square feet. There are two major reasons for this. The state’s tougher-than-average land-use laws slow the spread of retail-friendly sprawl, and the lack of a sales tax limits the government’s incentive to rubber-stamp all retail requests in order to bring in more tax revenues.

0511_StripMall_03But while Oregon’s 19 feet of shopping centers per person is low by U.S. standards, it is enormous compared to France and other nations that have embraced buying locally over chains. The average in most of Europe and Canada is closer to 2 square feet per capita.

For communities already defined by blighted commercial strips, the notion of becoming more like Paris is more than slightly complex. “You don’t solve this puzzle easily,” says Reeves. “It’s expensive and there’s not a lot of money out there.”

Further complicating matters is the fact that, as much as urban planners and retail consultants hate them, commercial strips kind of work. About 35,000 people drive up and down McLoughlin each day, and enough of them stop in to buy a car or a pawned guitar or a lap dance to keep those businesses open. Rents are low compared to the rest of the Portland area, and that’s not a bad thing for everyone.

“These areas do provide low-cost space,” points out Jerry Johnson of Portland-based real estate consultancy Johnson Reid. “Certain businesses are great businesses but only if they have low-cost space.”

Robert Bach, chief economist for California-based real estate firm Grubb & Ellis, argues that reports of the commercial strip’s death have been greatly exaggerated. “Strip centers are based on convenience,” he says, “and there will always be some demand for what they offer.”

Portland landlord Barry Menashe, who owns property in suburban strips in Beaverton and Gresham as well as downtown, also scoffs at the argument that commercial strips are doomed. “There’s still cars, neighborhoods, people, customers. They aren’t just going to go away.”

0511_StripMall_Graph01He has a point. But can commercial strips make the changes necessary to remain competitive? In some ways and in some areas, they already have. For one thing, strip centers are becoming more ethnically diverse. One fully packed center along Highway 99W, the Tigard Plaza, contains a fish and chips joint, a Chinese seafood market, an Italian Deli, an Indian imports store, a Vietnamese beef noodle soup house, an Asian grocery store, a pizza place, a Mexican tienda with fresh bread and money wiring services, a driving school, a tattoo and body-piercing shop, a co-ed fitness center, a barber shop and more.

The same low rent that enables a no-credit used car lot to survive also allows ethnic Chinese herb shops and bilingual beauty centers to take hold. The most prosperous example of diversity on a local strip may be the Fubonn Shopping Center on 82nd Avenue, billed “the largest Asian shopping center in Oregon.” Completed in 2005, Fubonn has transformed a formerly bland strip location into a lively collection of coffee houses and bubble tea shops, Vietnamese restaurants and shops selling books, music and jewelry. Just down 82nd on the opposite side of the street from Fubonn, a huge former multiplex theater has been transformed into a Slavic church.

 



 

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

All Rise

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Don’t just sit there. For a healthy workplace, move up and down — and all around.


Read more...

Carbon Power

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Researchers in a multitude of disciplines are searching for ways to soak up excess carbon dioxide, the compound that contributes to global warming.


Read more...

Uncertainty about convention center hotel could cost Portland an NBA All-Star Game

The Latest
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
463545460BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

NBA commissioner: "I would love to end up having an All-Star Game in Portland. It's really just a function of ensuring that we can fit in town."


Read more...

Where do Portland demographics rank among the largest 50 cities in the US?

The Latest
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
thumbpdxinperspectiveBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The Portland in Perspective study, done by the City Budget Office, was released Tuesday.


Read more...

How Oregon will survive the loss of Hanjin

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT | OB CONTRIBUTOR

"Shipping containers to Portland is like waiting for a bus that travels once a day."


Read more...

Chronicling Gov. Kitzhaber's march to resignation

The Latest
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
021115-kitzhaber-jekaplan14-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Recapping a wild week featuring plenty of will he or won't he resign drama.


Read more...

Nuclear fingerprints

March 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

At Oregon State University, a 21st century version of the bad dream — nuclear terrorism — is alive and well. This winter, the Department of Nuclear Physics and Radiation Health Physics created a new interdisciplinary graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics, a Sherlock Holmes-sounding program that aims to identify how and where confiscated nuclear and radiological materials were created.


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