Downtown renewal shifts westward in Eugene, Ore.

People who work, live downtown help to attract businesses




EUGENE, Ore. — The recent influx of new businesses in downtown Eugene that is transforming the Broadway and Willamette Street intersection is starting to drift westward, with a new sports bar already open and a waxing salon, a Subway sandwich shop and Buy 2 convenience store preparing to open this spring.

These new businesses are all going into spots along a stretch of West Broadway that for years had struggled to attract retail tenants. And what is attracting them, business owners and developers said, is the growing number of people working and living downtown, including students, amid ongoing efforts to revitalize the area.

The renovated Woolworth Building has signed its second ground-floor retail tenant, Urban Waxx, a Portland-based waxing salon that is opening its first location outside of Portland.

With the addition of Urban Waxx, the Woolworth Building is about 75 percent full, said Sarah Bennett, a principal with Bennett Management Co. Her family built the $10.8 million office building in April 2012, in collaboration with the city of Eugene and group of local investors.

"We think downtown is becoming more important as a specialty retail market and Urban Waxx contributes well to the mix," she said.

Urban Waxx will lease 1,200 square feet at 944 Willamette St., next to the 1,100-square-foot Pyrenees Wine Lounge, which is affiliated with the Pyrenees Vineyard & Cellar, a 30-acre estate just south of Roseburg. The wine lounge opened recently at 946 Willamette St., and now serves wine, champagne and beer with tapas and charcuterie Wednesday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The waxing salon plans to open its doors the third week of March, owner Shannon Conley said.

She said she spent months scouting sites in Seattle, Vancouver and Eugene, then finally zeroed in on Eugene. After visiting for the first time last summer, "I fell in love with Eugene," Conley said.

She said she drove around the University of Oregon and looked at a half-dozen sites near campus and in different parts of town.

"The one I loved right away was the one in the Woolworth Building," Conley said. "It just looked like an Urban Waxx. It had some of the same aesthetic quality of our salons.

"I am very drawn to the high ceilings and the open feeling, and we're going to maintain that," she said.

Urban Waxx also was drawn to Eugene's demographics.

"Our guests are between age 16-17 to 60, but mostly we service clients that are between 18 and 34," Conley said. As a college town, Eugene has a lot of people in that age range, she said.

Build-out costs for the Eugene salon are estimated at $105,000, which Urban Waxx will pay with help from the building's owners, Conley said. Urban Waxx will spend $30,000 more outfitting the space with computers, she said.

Urban Waxx opened its first salon in downtown Portland seven years ago. It added two others in Portland, and it plans to expand rapidly.

Conley said she is looking forward to doing cross promotions with neighboring Eugene businesses, including the Downtown Athletic Club, which is owned by the Bennett family, the Plume Red & Heritage Dry Goods stores, and Pyrenees Lounge.