Downtown Bend bursting with new business

Highest occupancy rate in three years

Lots of new flavor coming to downtown Bend

BEND, Ore. - Lot's of hustle and bustle Tuesday in downtown Bend--a sign of the spring break uptick for local businesses--but that was expected.

The surprise? Downtown Bend is nearly bursting at the seams.

"(We're) right near where we were doing the boom," Downtown Bend Business Association Executive Director Chuck Arnold said Tuesday.

Arnold said downtown Bend is at its highest occupancy rate in three years -- 95 percent of spaces are filled and 15 new businesses have opened or are opening soon.

"There's a lot of confidence of people starting up new businesses," Arnold said. "And it's tied to consumer confidence, but also people getting investors and getting businesses together, and really pursuing their dream."

Tan Vo recently opened a second restaurant in Bend, on Wall Street. He said it's the perfect time to open Sweet Saigon Restaurant downtown.

"It's good to be in downtown, so we can entertain more tourism," Vo said.

The newbies on the block are excited to get started-- and the veterans, while still cautious, say it looks promising.

"For the first time in about five or six years, I am optimistic -- it's been feeling better," said Local Joe owner A.J. Cohen.

"It is strong right now," said FootZone Business Manager Melanie Mangin. "We feel very fortunate. Things have definitely improved."

Business is better, but many say the high occupancy rate doesn't mean sales are close to per-recession levels.

"Fine dining is still one of those areas where people aren't spending as much as they used to," said Matthew Carter of the Pine Tavern.

Still, there is hope that with some new faces downtown and a steady climb in sales, this summer could be one of the best in years.

"(There will be) a really rich variety (downtown), which I think is going to be great for the summer," Arnold said.

Arnold also said that although occupancy rates are up, downtown rent is still cheaper than it was during the boom years.

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