Sponsored by Oregon Business

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.




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:

Quote | Report to administrator

More Articles

Cutting Edge

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

“There wasn’t a reason shaving with a straight razor should have been taken over by shaving with disposable razors.”



September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ben Kaiser holds his ground.


The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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?


Big Trouble in China?

Guest Blog
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
0818-wellmanthumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Earlier this month, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) announced they were going to devalue their currency, the Renminbi. While the amount of the targeted change was to be roughly 2 percent, investors read a lot more into the move. The Renminbi had been gradually appreciating against the U.S. dollar (see chart) as to attempt to alleviate concerns of being labeled a currency manipulator.


Living the dream

Friday, August 21, 2015

smugglespearsthumbRenee Spears, founder and owner of Portland-based Rose City Mortgage, is hot to trot to sell pot.


Getting What You Pay For

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

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

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02