|The decline of the tacky strip mall|
Fregonese says the strip on McLoughlin has more going for it than meets the eye, with a surrounding population equivalent to the City of Corvallis and a median household income of $62,000. “It’s the kind of environment where you can’t change around the whole corridor. You have to start with nodes, start someplace and be successful and then move onto the next thing. Because the corridor is too big to fix all at once, and it could really use a center.”
The prospect of a new light rail line through the area “gives you an opportunity to do some things you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” Fregonese says.
Abe Farkas, development services director for the economic consulting firm ECONorthwest, says the preliminary research indicates that McLoughlin could be a good location for retailers selling building materials, clothing and accessories, and some food services. Farkas is also looking into a strategy of developing rental housing, to lure young newcomers to the area and help change its image.
A mixed-use apartment on the McLoughlin strip would be a tough sell at this point. The area is so auto-oriented that walking can be unpleasant and potentially dangerous. Everything about the area is geared toward catching the attention of passing motorists. Convincing people to move in and spend some time will require changes in image, design and ambience.
Still, the mere fact that some of the region’s top planners are exploring ways to rebuild a place like McLoughlin Boulevard indicates that the trends identified by the Urban Land Institute are serious. The commercial strip as we know it may eventually become a thing of the past. Something else will evolve to replace it, and whatever it is, it almost certainly will be an improvement.