It’s not often you see a combination of tenants this close to the bottom.

This is a photo from Wheaton Way, an ailing commercial strip in an old blue-collar industrial city, Bremerton, 15 miles west across Puget Sound from Seattle. This strip and city began losing retail sales 40 years ago when a new freeway went in. Today that freeway is where the good new stores and restaurants go, while this strip continues to slide. All the major tenants in this center are low-end: Habitat for Humanity and St. Vincent de Paul stores, a consignment shop, and a Grocery Outlet, which, on the West Coast, is always the last supermarket before a space goes dark.

Normally new streetscape won’t revitalize an area, but it might help here if trees starved the stores of exposure. Even then, however, redevelopment here is a challenge, for the surrounding neighborhoods have poorly-built and deteriorating housing, the residents of that housing have falling incomes, and housing values are so low that good new housing on this site wouldn’t pencil. Turning this place around requires an inside-out approach, one that starts by improving the existing housing and incomes, not the street. Anything else is almost purely cosmetic.