Sunday, April 19, 2009

Trendy 23rd Avenue is falling apart

From the Oregonian:

The 23rd Avenue shopping strip, Portland's palace of posh, is fraying under the weight of the recession.

The city's icon to consumerism is where high-end retailers Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma Home and Urban Outfitters go to be seen.

But empty storefronts are now as visible as double lattes.

White House Black Market. Gone. French Quarter. Gone. Twenty-Third Avenue Books. Wham. Music Millennium. All gone.

From every street corner between Everett and Raleigh streets -- 13 blocks -- shoppers can spot a "For Lease" sign or plywood-covered window. Demand has fallen far enough that a head shop called Mary Jane's House of Glass can now afford a 23rd Avenue storefront.

The street some call "Trendy-Third" reflects the trouble facing a once-unstoppable real estate boom. Beyond shops, downtown offices are starting to empty as law firms and architects lay off workers. Suburban office parks, once filled with high-tech workers and mortgage brokers, are going dark.

Commercial real estate tends to lag broader economic trends, and vacancies are expected to climb.

Just above 23rd Avenue near Burnside, Clyde Fladwood ferries boxes out of his women's clothing store, CC McKenzie.

He opened the place five years ago when times were booming on 23rd.

Now, the window signs say it all: "Store liquidation. Everything must go."

Fladwood's lease expires in May, and he says his slumping sales don't justify a new lease. "People are scared to death to go out and spend money, and they're not," he said Friday as a few women thumbed through sale-priced pants, shirts and shoes.

"This is the only thing that makes sense to people, buying when someone's going out of business."

The story also talks about Kruse Way in Lake Oswego. The vacancy rate is now 16%.