Friday, November 26, 2021

Visiting the Lloyd Center Ghost Town


If you’re a fan of oversized fake Christmas trees and huge dangling ornaments, don’t miss Lloyd Center this season.  It’s bound to be your last chance.

A year ago, Building on History wrote about the obvious decline of the big Northeast Portland shopping mall and offered suggestions for its future.  Other news outlets picked up on the story, leading to an outpouring of memories of shoppers who remember the mall in its prime.  While this blog generally concentrates on preservation of older buildings, the number of "hits" for the Lloyd Center post far exceeded any other in the blog's lifetime. 

 Portland author and filmmaker, Paula Bernstein, was so touched by peoples’ memories of the mall that she is working on documentary about them.  Her production schedule is not yet known, but there is a strong chance the mall will be padlocked before it’s finished.  Interested people can reach her through

In the meantime, the months have been difficult at the mall.  None of us knew a year ago that the Texas-based owners were already defaulting on their big debt to a powerful lender, who has now promised  foreclosure after the December seasonal “rush” concludes.

  A fire in the electrical station shut down the mall for a few weeks in the summer, and more stores have departed.  Managers of those that remain have heard nothing from the mall owner about the mall’s future.

KKR Real Estate Finance Trust said it plans to take possession “and prepare for long-term redevelopment of the site.”  What that means is anyone’s guess.  

The only obvious answer is that the mall’s future, like most other issues on American society, will be decided by Big Money.  You can be sure KKR isn’t interested in housing the homeless or maintaining a goofy little skating rink because a handful of people like it.  It also is improbable to think the mall could be reconditioned as a retail site, given the decline in on-site shopping in favor of the internet. 

The likelihood is that the mall will be replaced by towers for offices and affluent condominium owners, if private studies show there is suitable market for them.  Lloyd Center was an anomaly in the city's traditional grid layout in that it was a "superblock" imposed in the late 1950s on approximately 17 square blocks of "old" Northeast Portland.  It would be interesting to see streets blocked off by the mall be reopened to Portland’s traditional grid pattern.  That outcome might open the door for interesting and active street life in the neighborhood.  Or not.

In the meantime, take in the fake tree and monstrous dangling ornaments if they fit your fancy.  While you can.  

 -----Fred Leeson

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  1. Probably nothing is more emblematic of Portland's steep cascade into anarchy than Lloyd Center and its surrounding blocks. For our city's pious SJWs, the tragic toll includes tweakers and gangbangers but not the citizens who pay the ever-increasing taxes to fund this project. Call it Mayhem on the Wlllamette, a city without rules or much of a future.

    There will be no high-rise office buildings nor high-dollar condos built here. The land has been salted with too much failure and too little attractiveness. The sorry truth is that Portland's rich heritage is no match for the thousands of "unhoused" carjackers, porch pirates, professional "victims", and P2P meth addicts, whose descent into madness is irremediable and final. I wish we had as much clarity as charity because none of this will end well.

    1. Trying a real argument. Malls are shutting down all over the country because of Amazon and the Pandemic accelerated the process. The only serious Bick and Morter stores that can stay open are apparel.

    2. Walt, you have some serious reality issues bud.

      Every other development in the mall area has been successful, and there is little doubt that if done properly, redevelopment of the mall property would enjoy the same success.

      Your lack of knowledge of the markets is exceeded only in your hubris and belief in your won horse hooey.

  2. Suggestions from a reader, Branford Playford:
    It could so easily be reimagined as a business incubator, food cart pod, grocery store, restaurant hub... All it would take is an imaginative city not hellbent on redeveloping every square inch of existing structure and space.

  3. The WWeek has been doing some stories on this and also asked for peoples' ideas which they're printing. There are some great ones - and I agree that the likelihood of them coming to pass with the current owner is nill. But the City could surprise us - or the County - or, Metro! and buy the place and then perhaps we could do a little dreaming.

  4. Rink. would go with my Mom to Lloyd Center shortly after it opened. She always got lost finding where she parked & was happy I was with her because I always remembered where it was parked.

  5. I started going to Lloyd Center Mall with my Mom when it was first built. I was always the one who remembered where the car was parked. The first time my Mom insisted it was on the green level near Holliday St., I insisted it was on the Yellow level. She went to the green car. She gave in & we went to the Yellow level...there it was! She always trusted me after that.