Diverse comments tackle big box stores
Last week’s cover essays about development of big box stores in McMinnville represented one of the more interesting compilations of community commentary we’ve had in our weekly opinion section in recent years.
Kudos to Viewpoints coordinator Marna Porath for her determined efforts to pull that diverse collection together over the past few months. Several starts and stops along the way made us wonder if we would find the right mix, but the end result was a good cross section of opinion on whether we should embrace or halt the growth of mega-stores in our local marketplace.
I remember when the local debate on Walmart coming to town spawned concerns that it would destroy the local independent business community. Back then, a group with strong downtown business interests decided not to fight the north-end development for various reasons.
There was a feeling that other existing big box stores already drew shoppers looking for that experience, and adding another would not significantly change the local marketplace. People thought the draw of Walmart for shoppers from around the area actually would benefit other local businesses as people discovered downtown McMinnville and all its amenities.
An interesting sidelight to the current discussion is where McMinnville should site its next major shopping center development. That discussion focuses on a large parcel along Three Mile Lane near the Evergreen museum, and another at the south end of Highway 99W near Linfield.
The Three Mile Lane site would eliminate industrial land and add considerable traffic to what is supposed to be McMinnville’s bypass. On the other hand, its location might serve as a magnet to shoppers from an extended region, drawing even more side-trips into the downtown and the rest of McMinnville’s local economy.
The south-end parcel would create its own traffic challenges. Another problem there is that owners are not interested in selling the land, only on providing a long-term lease for developers. I’m told on good authority that major big box players such as Costco and Target will not develop unless they can own the property outright.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of big box centers, preferring the hometown atmosphere and personal touch found in so many independent, locally owned operations. But mega-stores are a reality of our lives, so the challenge is in making sure they are developed in the right place and with the correct set of planning and development regulations.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-687-1223.