17 December 2023

Lloyd Center, Portland, OR

 A dead mall

Although I had lived I the Pacific Northwest for the previous five years, my first visit to Portland, Oregon didn’t occur until early in 2017.  It was a short flight from Seatac and from there I boarded the city’s TriMet red line.  My first destination was the Lloyd District.

2017-  1- The already vacated Nordstrom.  2- The front of the mall.  3- Sears is still in business.  4- Another shot of the former Nordstrom.  5- The large Macy's fronting Multnomah Street.  6- The second level of Macy's from the parking deck. 

Located just a block north of the NE 11th Avenue/ Lloyd Station, a quick walk-through Holladay Park brought me to the retail anchor of the district, the hulking Lloyd Center.  Stretching for three blocks along NE Multnomah Street, I found myself standing across a rather large Macy’s flanked on either sides by a large parking deck.

2017-  1- The center court with the food court in the background.  2- The eastern corridor.  3- Macy's third floor entrance.  4- An entrance under the parking deck.

The mall was still rather busy at the time.  And on this particular Saturday, the shoppers were out in abundance.  It was nice seeing so many people out enjoying what has become more and more of a rarity- a well-stocked and visited urban shopping mall.

Lloyd Center lease plan ca. 2011. View the full PDF version here.

Lloyd Center is your basic, straight-line shopping complex running primarily east to west.  Either end is capped with a traditional anchor store with two other anchor spaces located at the mid-section, one each to the north and south of the main concourse.

2023-  1- The Multnomah Street facing side is empty.  2- The newly built main entrance.  3 & 4- The empty Macy's and its parking deck.

Also located within the center portion was a fully occupied food court, placed strategically on the third floor, with just about every popular quick service restaurant popular in malls at the time such as Orange Julius, Japan Sarku and Steak Escape.

2023- The now empty Sears building.

Just across and down to the ground floor from the food court was the focal point of the triple tiered shopping center- the ice-skating rink.  Built in an oval shape and, unlike the former rink at nearby Clackamas Town Center, not regulation sized, it was full of skaters enjoying a rare non-retail amenity for shopping malls of the day.

2023- 1 & 2- More shots of the disused parking deck.  3 & 4- Jungles are encroaching on the former Nordstrom.

The main corridors of the third level no longer hosted much retail but had mostly been converted to office spaces.  These mezzanines saw much less foot traffic than the lower two levels, but occupancy still seemed high behind their glass façades.

By this visit, the Nordstrom anchor had already been shuttered, though the other two traditional anchors, Sears and Macy’s, continued making respectable sales.  Junior anchors included Marshall’s, Barnes & Noble and Ross, all located on the bottom level.

Lloyd Center lease plan ca. 2017. View the full PDF version here.

There wasn’t much in the way of notable design elements on the exterior, which is understandable as the entire complex barring the anchors was obscured by the encircling parking deck.  The anchors’ designs were definitely of another era, with Sears and Nordstrom displaying that 90s vibe and Macy’s showing off that retro seventies disco look.

2023- More of the overgrowth on the mall's western end.

Inside was what one might expect from a mall renovated in the aughts with shiny porcelain tiled floors, glass railings and mauve carpeting on the second level walkways.  Most of the other elements were in varying shades of gray and white with sparse wood accents scattered throughout.

Through unremarkable in many respects, I loved the dated elements on display with the Macy’s and seen on the structure’s rear facing edifice to the north.  The roof covering center court was reminiscent of a large barn or old timey airplane hangar from that perspective, and I was all for it.

2023- Shots of the rear/ north facing side of Lloyd Center.

After a few years away, I made a recent visit to Bridge Town to check in with it.  My most anticipated destination was to be Lloyd Center, as I have heard that the past few years have not been kind.  And I was completely dismayed with what I saw, especially considering the vast history of the Lloyd District and its eponymous retail anchor.

2023- Outside of the Lloyd Center.

Located across the Willamette River from the historical center of Portland, the district was created in the early twentieth century by Ralph B. Loyd in an attempt to shift more commercial development to the river’s eastern banks.  By the 50s, the district had grown to include multi-family homes, suburban style office buildings and a rather large Sears.

Lloyd Center lease plan ca. 2021. View the full PDF version here.

In 1960, Lloyd Center opened to complement the extant Sears.  In its early days as an open-air center with around 100 stores, it was one of the largest of its kind in the nation.  The original anchors were Portland-based Meier & Frank in the middle, JCPenney on the eastern end, Best & Nordstrom’s Shoes to the west and JJ Newberry across from Meier & Frank to the north.

2023- The nearly empty eastern wing.

A Lipman’s store was added to the west end in 1972, with Seattle-based Frederick & Nelson taking over the spot in 1979.  Nordstrom moved into the 50,000 square foot location in 1988 and rebuilt and expanded their presence in 1991.

JCPenney closed in 1999 with Sears quickly moving in while Macy’s took over Meier & Frank’s 314,000 square foot facility in 2006.  By the middle of the 2010s, the mall was doing well enough, but many changes were coming. 

Nordstrom was the first anchor to depart in 2015, and the building has remained darkened since.  Not long after, a large-scale renovation was begun, though this did nothing stop the oncoming exodus.  The theaters, located on the third floor flanking the food court, closed later in 2015.

2023- Around center court and the vacant food court.

Sears, like most of its locations nation-wide in the late 2010s, departed in 2018.  Marshall’s tapped out in 2019 with Macy’s following suit from their streetside building in 2021.  At this point there were no longer any traditional anchors left, and the state in which the Lloyd center finds itself today was inevitable.

On this recent, and what may very well be my last visit to the aging retail facility, it was striking to see how much it had faded over the course of six years.  Lloyd Center is truly dead, with few if any national retail players lining its corridors and just a few local names in the food court besides the afore mentioned Orange Julius, which seems to be hanging on somehow.

2023-  The former Macy's entrance and the ice skating rink.

The area surrounding the retail anachronism is doing well enough, with new office and residential building rising up and casting their shadows on the old mall.  But beyond the glitzy newness, Lloyd Center’s neglected and overgrown landscaping, tagged up exteriors and empty monolithic parking structure seem to be well on their way out. 

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