The interior of the McAurther, Cooney and Wirth building is still under construction, but the sign is mounted and hiring has begun for the Armory Square Urban Outfitters store, expected to open Aug. 19.
To shoppers, the Walton Street storefront will mean three floors of hip, affordable men's and women's clothing and a mix of eclectic furnishings and incidentals, mostly geared toward 18- to 30-year-olds, (think "apartmentwares," not "housewares"). But for the overall downtown economy, the presence of the international chain will provide both an anchor to the Armory Square business district and a sort of jumping-off point for consumers who may not have ventured downtown to shop before.
David Mankiewicz, executive director of the Downtown Committee and Centerstate CEO senior VP, said with the opening of UO comes a sense of validation.
"Twenty-five years ago, the first Armory Square pioneers were going in there, and work was just getting started." Mankiewicz said. "They've built Armory Square into a place where a major retail store says, 'this is somewhere we have to be.'"
Part of the neighborhood's charm is that the overwhelming majority of businesses are locally-owned and independent. There are currently only a handful of national chains in the Armory Square neighborhood, among them, Starbucks, Subway and Hugo Boss.
Business leaders recognize that to keep the boutique feel, a balance must be maintained between independent businesses and national retailers.
"Our goal will be to keep positive mix with lots of local stores and local flavor, because that's what is really important," Mankiewicz said.
An anchor to build around
Urban Outfitters' presence in Armory isn't adding a competitor, Mankiewicz said, and by and large the existing independent business owners agree.
Instead, it brings name recognition and an anchor to the neighborhood, a destination for out-of-towners or for students to come down off the hill. The idea is that once they venture downtown, guided by the UO glow, consumers will discover the independent retail shops and restaurants and will keep coming back.