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Valley River Center plans to expand empty storefront into new entrance, outdoor plaza

There are new plans in the works for Valley River Center to expand the empty storefront that used to be occupied by Sports Authority. (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. – There are new plans in the works for Valley River Center to expand the empty storefront that used to be occupied by Sports Authority.

They plan to turn it into a new front entrance and outdoor plaza, shifting traditional retail to more locally-owned.

Empty storefronts are becoming more common as major retailers continue to close across the country - most recently Toys ‘R’ Us, which announced last month the closing of their 735 stores nationwide.

Director of Business Relations at Lane Community College, Jaime Christopher, says when big retailers go out of business it provides new opportunities for local retailers.

“A big company going out of business declaring bankruptcy,” explains Christopher, “that leaves a hole that needs to be filled by someone and Amazon can fill that hole, but there are people that are locals that want to take advantage of that so there is talent to shift to a new perspective.”

It’s a shift he says retailers are noticing and strategizing in different ways to bring in customers.

“There is a lot of loyalty to locally-owned businesses when they do see a chain go out. I don't think people want to wait for another chain to come in and take its place.”

We're seeing one big change in Eugene with Valley River Center’s outdoor plaza expansion plan.

“We have been looking at options for while a while, listening to our customers,” says VRC Marketing Manager Dani Olsen. “We’ve seen what we have been missing and we really feel like this plaza will provide a lot of opportunity for different community gatherings and events.”

Olsen says they understand the continuing shift in what consumers want.

“Locally, statewide and throughout the country, we are learning that people are looking for different activities that they can be doing, so we want to find ways to bring people in.”

Adds Christopher: “When you look at Oakway Plaza, it’s an open area, really inviting place to sit, places for little concerts…I think Valley River is catching on to that idea and trying to do the same thing.”

Retailers inside and around VRC will stay open during construction. Olsen says it will have a slight effect on parking.

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