Centers and Corridors

Strip malls are a dying breed.

That was the starting point for a discussion of corridor planning at yesterday’s Metro “Get Centered” brown-bag event.

The market for retail is now reorganizing to favor interchanges and crossroads. Long corridors of strip malls are out. The prototypical example held out from our region is Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.

The market analysis suggests that there is demand for about 1.2M square feet of retail in that corridor. The problem – there’s already 1.6M square feet of retail space there. The result – disinvestment, i.e., properties remain vacant, get rented to tenants who can only pay low rents (think strip clubs) and generally are not kept up.

Our 2040 regional plan would suggest that retail (and other uses) should cluster at the Beaverton Regional Center, at the western end of this corridor. So in this case the retail marketplace and regional planning are actually in alignment (how cool is that)!

So what’s the risk, and what’s the opportunity?

The risk is that disinvestment in the corridor leads to further degradation and, dare I say it, blight.

The opportunity is to change the investment pattern. What would now appear to be the highest and best use of land along Beaverton-Hillsdale? Medium-to-high density residential.

This is not without some challenges. The building types need to be scaled appropriately to the width of the street (i.e., we’re not talking single family here). But it’s not unreasonable. The residential could cluster around some of the ‘neighborhood center’ (e.g., Albertsons) retail areas on the corridor, keeping them viable.

So where’s the transportation hook for this, you ask? Capacity! As you close all the curb cuts for that empty retail space, and in their place build a network of streets to serve the new residential, you create capacity in the corridor and help reduce congestion.

How’s this for a virtuous cycle:
– Retail reorganizes into denser configurations supporting regional centers
– Corridors convert to denser housing areas, creating infill and reducing UGB expansion pressures
– Traffic on the revitalized corridors flows better

Someone pinch me and tell me I’m not dreaming.

More detail on the corridors project at the Metro web site.

4 responses to “Centers and Corridors”

  1. That would be freakin awesome! Imagine how cool it would be if Beaverton Hillsdale highway turned into something more like Hawthorne, with lower slower car traffic and housing near by. It would be so nice to be able to actually ride down Bvt. Hillsdale Hwy without fearing for ones life….

  2. More likely the Beaverton-Hillsdale highway would turn into one long parking lot. One of the major problems with roads in suburban areas is that there are no cross streets; all the traffic in the surrounding areas is focused onto that one road.

    Increasing residential density on it will inevitably increase the amount of traffic on a road – btw, which is terribly designed for pedestrians and will likely remain that way for a long time unless there is a MAJOR ($$$) overhaul of it – therefore making it a traffic nightmare.

    Maybe it’d be a good place for low income housing, as noone would really want to pay to live along a highway? But I’m a socialist, so that’s against my own ideals.

    That particular road needs to be narrowed down, with wider sidewalks, perhaps turn it into a one-way road with a new traffig grid developed along it, and parallel routes offering cars & people alternate routes along the same lenght.

    Density requires a complex network of streets to work… it’s not just linearity, unless you invest in a high-capacity transit system like a streetcar or max in its own dedicated lane.

    I don’t think the suburbs are ready with the proper mentality to do the poper investments in their infrastructure and city structure to change things… so we’ll probably see a bunch of more flops ala ‘The Round’ until they start to get things right. Or hire real architects/planners and actually spend the money.

  3. Justin, I’m not an expert on trip generation, but I’m pretty sure that acre vs. acre, retail generates more trips than residential.

    But the larger point is that the retail in many cases is deep enough to allow you to create a residential block PLUS a street behind it, so you can create more of a street grid to deal with the local trips, taking those off the arterial.

  4. Chris,

    Yes, you see it as I also would hope with back side street support. My hope would be for retail/service employment on the front side up close to B/H Highway with (as you said, reduced curb access) to increase the capacity for through traffic. There should be enough width for islands to protect the on street parking with a pull out lane plus the islands support the bus route stops.

    Funny also is that this process has already started on SE Division going all the way out to Gresham. Rowhouses are infilling and resturants are started in former houses. Its very exciting. Both roads could be getting to the same place by different routes with slightly different results.

    I also mentioned in 2004 the idea of using back side streets with back parking for Damascus/Boring and the most current draft concept plan (public to add more comments tomorrow at Deer Creek Elem. School) seems to include this way for commerce/local support.

    Ray Whitford

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