How did this come to pass? How did we end up with a town that has new houses built into every crevice, every commercial building quadrupiling in size, huge big box stores offering everything we never needed, apartment buildings spilling into the street?
I'm no expert on the legal mechanisms that might have been employed to slow down growth. Because it never really mattered. There was never any political WILL to slow growth, control growth, much less stop growth. I don't believe a serious anti-growth candidate could be elected, even now. We've had plenty of chances.
Well, if you were here in 1980, you'd know why.
When I went off to college in the mid 70's Bend was still a sleepy little town. But every time I came home for the holiday's, it seemed like there was another growth spurt. First one mall was built, then almost immediately, a second mall. New subdivisions sprang up. We got our own bookstore, finally, and really hit the big time with our very own T.V. station! A sewer system was installed. A kind of mini boom that didn't seem mini at the time.
And then the Reagon was elected, Paul Volcker jacked up interest rates to try to stop inflation. Bend spiraled into more of a depression than a recession. All the construction jobs dried up. We had a full ten year span from 1982 to 1992 when no new major retail came to town, very little building went on. The new malls never reached profitability, the downtown emptied out.
I swear there were FOR SALE signs, or a u-haul in the driveway, of every other house.
It was bad.
While the rest of the country had "Morning in America", Bend had poverty with a view. I don't believe I really felt we had even gotten back to square one until the very late eighties.
So when signs of life began to appear in the early nineties, no one was in a mood to try to slow it down. We were hoping for more. When building sped up in the mid-90's, we were all hoping it would continue.
Looking back, the time to step back and take a breath would've been around then. Before Walmart and Target flattened the terrain and they put in their cheapest, ugliest versions of big box.
But we still didn't trust that it would continue. We kept cheering for growth, until that day when we realized that it took twice as long to get across town as it used to, until one too many S.U.V.'s cut us off in traffic, until Masterston's Hardware was replaced not only by Home Depot, but also Lowes; until Cascade Stationary was displaced not only by Staples, but by Office Max, until it tipped over into ridiculously over-retailed.
The door to growth hadn't just been pried open, as we'd struggled to do for years, but kicked open and blown off its hinges.
So we find ourselves where we are today.
5 days ago