Remodel starts soon and will take two years to complete

by: WATERLEAF DESIGN - The Lloyd Center ice rink will move slightly east and become more oval as part of a remodel designed to get the community more interested in staying to shop and getting shoppers to watch the ice skating.An upcoming remodel of the Lloyd Center will take the mall back to its mid-20th Century roots, while also serving as a centerpiece for continuing renewal of the surrounding neighborhood.

Lloyd District boosters greeted the remodeling plans, unveiled Thursday, with enthusiasm. They said the upgrades — along with plans to turn nearby Holladay Park into a community gathering place — will inject new vibrancy into the area.

Dallas-based Cypress Equities, which bought the mall last year, says it will spend $50 million on the remodel, which will start within 30 days and take two years to complete. Among the new features will be:

• An entrance cut into the mall from Northeast Multnomah Street where Macy’s currently abuts the parking lot.

• A revamped ice rink, centered under the skylight and reduced to an oval.

• Removal of the foot bridges over the ice rink.

• A renovated food court that makes it easier to watch the skating and encourages users to stay in the mall and shop longer.

• A toned down, less busy look that allows retailers to get the attention.

• A refurbished southeast entrance and a spruce-up and new lighting for the Salmon Fountain.

• LED lighting.

• A $15 million new heating and cooling system, designed to reduce energy use by 20 percent to 30 percent.

The mall will remain open during construction. Work will be put on hold twice for the fall/Christmas holiday season and will be completed in 2016.

Todd Minnis, chief investment officer at Cypress, said the primary goal is to make the shopping center fit in with the Lloyd District. Which will change first — the mall or the nabe — remains to be seen. He wants to encourage those who just hang out at the mall to shop more.

“We heard so many stories how everyone in Portland has skated on the ice rink here, but for every 100 who skated, only five shopped.”

The food court will be reoriented so that it looks down comfortably, on the ice rink.

Architect William Bailey of Waterleaf, the local firm contracted to design the remodel, said the idea is to bring light and people into the mall.

For example, when looking west across the ice rink, poor sight lines make it unclear whether there is a another wing of the mall to explore. This blockage point will be cleared out and replaced with a retro spiral staircase, which may remind longtime members of the community of a staircase in the original outdoor mall that was removed in 1989.

On Halsey Street, the mall’s northern entrance will be remodeled to reveal the “clean, simple lines” of the original terrazzo finishes. The goal is a “sense of nostalgia” for the 1950s, according to a release from Cypress.

While the Lloyd Center began life in 1960 as the “biggest mall in America,” it declined in the 1980s and became known amongst fearful suburbanites as a gathering place for rough youths and occasional outbreaks of violence. Some retailers also left in recent years, and Nordstrom has announced it will depart in 2015. Cheap jewelry at Claire’s, burgers at MacDonald’s and sack-stuffing fun at Old Navy and Ross Dress For Less are among the current offerings.

Local Lloyd boosters were happy with the unveiling. Architect D. Michael Jones, who is the Lloyd District Community Association co-chair and an associate at LRS Architects in the Pearl District, said in an email to the Tribune:

“The Lloyd District Community Association is excited to see all the great plans to renew and revitalize Portland’s iconic landmark shopping mall. … Lloyd Center will begin a new chapter in its storied history, providing its patrons with fresh and interesting spaces with access to a variety of new retailers in the heart of the Lloyd Eco-District.”

Jones added that Cypress Equities’ vision "meshes perfectly with LDCA’s goals to promote a sustainable lifestyle for the thousands of people who live and work in the neighborhood.”

Cypress also owns the superblock parking lot next to the theater across Multnomah Street.

John Fainter, senior vice president at Cypress Equities, said he hopes to build a mixed-use development there, of apartments and retail. This would be similar to the one American Assets Trust is building two blocks away.

Fainter said modern shoppers can shop online, but they go to the mall for the experience: the food, the people watching and the freedom to walk around.

“They want more than just go in and go out. One thing they want is a sit-down dining experience.”

A new restaurant is planned for the south-side street front, currently unprogrammed sidewalk.

Fainter cited the “rich beer culture” in Portland as a reason people might come here, hinting that a sports-themed brew pub is imminent.

Cypress Equities has funded a nonprofit, the Holladay Park Partnership, to program events in Holladay Park to make it more friendly and less threatening. The model is Pioneer Courthouse Square or Director Park downtown. Plans include tai chi, chess and outdoor reading rooms to increase the amenities.

“The effect is to put more people in the park and reduce the impression that the park is unsafe,” said Bailey of Waterleaf. “With people moving into the neighborhood, the mall and the park will act as an amenity.”

Cypress has retained urban park expert Dan Biederman to soften up Holladay Park. Biederman’s claim to fame is turning Bryant Park in New York City from a prostitution zone into a home for lunching office workers and New York Fashion Week.

Fainter cited the Biederman idea that 300 positive people can drive out 15 scary people, with the help of rangers and police on site.

“You provide a comfortable, safe, clean environment, people want to stay longer,” Fainter added.

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