Today’s New York Times had an interesting article on Northeast Alberta Street in Portland, OR, a now thriving mixed-use district of once underutilized “cement-block and wood buildings.”

According to the Times: “Much of the district’s commercial awakening can be traced to Roslyn Hill, a civic-minded landlord who began snapping up the street’s hodgepodge of cement-block and wood buildings in the early 1990s and renting them to gallery operators and designers. Ms. Hill laid down new rules: no metal bars on windows and no locked doors during business hours.”

I immediately thought of Dana Crawford, a similar visionary who began purchasing buildings in Larimer Square in Downtown Denver in the late 1960’s. People thought she was crazy when she starting buying property, improving buildings (and the street), and began leasing spaces to antique stores and other interesting uses. Now, this woman REALLY understood the concept of creating a destination. Her tenanting efforts were further supported by promotional activities that reinforced her unique brand, and gave people even more of a reason to visit and shop at Larimer Square. Today, the area is on fire. Consider that the Real World Denver was filmed in the area, and you get a sense of how far it’s come. The way in which these ‘single-owner’ commercial districts function, and the way in which they so carefully control tenant mix (not always renting every space to highest bidder to achieve a more interesting mix of businesses) is so similar to traditional shopping centers that it’s difficult to overlook.

Whether you agree that this is ‘success’ or not – the principal still holds…managing merchandise and tenant mix in a strategic and thoughtful way is a critical piece of the commercial district revitalization puzzle.

Image: Larimer Square, Denver, CO