What’s that smell in the suburbs?

Somewhere southeast of Portland in Oregon City there are a few Mom & Pop store owners today who are feeling abandoned, all in the name of economic development. A new mall is being planned for development in the area, and the city manager told the Oregonian, “We’re going to do what needs to be done to make this happen.”

What he’s referring to is “The Rivers,” another one of those high-end “lifestyle” retail developments that are all the rage these days. The proposed cost: $160 million to $180 million. Likely tenants: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Staples, Dick’s Sporting Goods, among many other non-local chain retailers.

The proposed development is a joint venture between a Tualatin company and the California State Teachers Retirement System. You can bet the vast majority of the money is coming from the California teachers. So once again, it’s out-of-state developers using their vast resources to invest in another suburban mall stocked with out-of-state chain retailers. And once again local government is bending over backwards to make it possible for these out-of-state businesses to siphon local dollars out of the area’s economy, pledging “$25 million to $35 million to assist with roads, utilities and other site development costs.”

When do you suppose the last time Oregon City spent $25 million to $35 million to help ensure independent, locally owned stores in succeed? They’re the ones who keep their incomes flowing through the local economy, creating a multiplier effect that benefits all in the local community. And that’s just the economic gain from having a healthy local merchant sector. Instead non-Oregon investors/developers and retail giants will once again gladly pocket our community’s disposable income and ship it elsewhere – all with the active political and financial support of local municipal government!

The headline this morning inadvertently says it all, “Oregon City vision: Turn dump into mall.” Developers are looking to build “The River” on a former landfill. That’s fitting, because the whole thing stinks.

July 5th, 2007

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