Support Local Journalism!        

Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.

FONT & AUDIO

MORE STORIES


Whether from Wall Street or a wet tent, mall retains some attraction for Portland holiday shoppers

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Lloyd Center shoppers and retirees Douglas Buchanan and Donna Taylor were hurrying for a bus on Northeast Multnomah Street with a cart loaded with presents.

The busiest parts of Lloyd Center on a recent holiday shopping day were the skating rink and the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the former Marshalls.

Many people we spoke to had heard vague things about the mall possibly closing down because its Texas-based owner had stopped paying its loan, and some were dimly aware there was new ownership in the form of Urban Renaissance Group of Seattle. They'd heard things, but they couldn't quite remember where or what.

The trickle of shoppers coming in and out of the remodeled spiral staircase entrance on Northeast Multnomah Street included retirees Douglas Buchanan and Donna Taylor who were hurrying for a bus with a cart loaded with presents and wrapping paper.

Buchanan, who retired from Tektronix after 40 years, said he thought the wayfinding was poor, but he wanted the mall to stay in business.

"They should add the information which street it exits to," Buchanan said. "That would make the mall a lot more newcomer friendly. Because it's easy to get lost in there. I've been shopping here for 50 years. And God bless America."

Taylor is a local who lives at Southeast 11th Avenue and Stark Street and is a caregiver. When she heard the new owners do not want to tear Lloyd Center down, she said "Good. Good. Good. Thank you, Jesus."

She goes to the mall once a week. "I used to go ice skating here when I was a kid. I loved it here."

Asked how it could be improved, Buchanan joked, "Lower prices on everything." He added, "Everybody, please make, buy and sell things made in the United States of America. And Merry Christmas, everybody."

Not everyone wanted to talk to a reporter. One guy in a hurry said he just hopped off the MAX train to take one last look at it before its demise. Another couple had only been twice before and had come back, lured by the news.

And not everyone was shopping.

Tammy Lee (yorkie) and Wendy Johnson (shih tzu) came from Northeast Portland with their dogs in slings, looking for a Lifeline phone for Johnson. Lee said they had been to Assurance and Cricket Wireless, without luck.

"I used to shop here for perfume," said Lee, when they worked at the state building across Oregon Square. But not any more. They are out of work and don't have money for shopping right now. Both agreed the mall looked fine. "It's decorated nice," Lee said.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - From left, Henry Meece, a special Olympics snowboarder, and Jeff (no last name given) came to Lloyd Center for lunch and to hang out with Ryan Winn who works with On The Move, a program supporting people with disabilities.

Ryan Winn works with On The Move, a program supporting people with disabilities. The idea is to get them outside and moving around. She had just brought Henry Meece, a Special Olympics snowboarder, and Jeff, who preferred not to speak, to Fun and Fit, a CrossFit gym, and then to the mall for lunch. She said that a lot of spaces they used to go have been shut down by COVID-19 restrictions, such as the seating areas in Fred Meyer and New Seasons. One of the few left is Lloyd Center.

"We decided to come here because we haven't been here for a while," Winn said.

"We had lunch and we were going to walk around, but we ran out of time," Meece said. "We saw Santa. The food court is empty. The pizza place is gone," he added.

Winn said, "It's kind of a ghost town in there. We try to avoid malls and too much commercial shopping and spend as much time outside as we can. We like to support smaller, more local businesses. We usually try to bring our lunches, but it's hard to find free places."

Meece noticed the ice rink has changed shape and there is now a snow machine. "That was probably the highlight," Winn added. "Henry would like to see it replaced by a giant snow park," she teased, and he agreed.

There was another group of people with intellectual disabilities sitting with their caregiver inside, watching the ice skaters and one another. The appeal of a warm place with seating and no pressure to buy anything was clearly strong.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Zen Li was exiting the mall on her way back to her campsite in the Lloyd District when Kelly O'Hagan joined in the conversation, recognizing a fellow unhoused person. She was with her dog, Emanuel, which is welcome in Lloyd Center.

A woman named Zen Li was exiting the mall having crossed through it, north to south, on her way back to her campsite in the Lloyd District.

"I'm houseless, but I live around here, and I really hope they're able to do something nice with it," she said. "The kids haven't changed, they still want to run around and visit Santa."

Li came from Tennessee two years ago and has long COVID-19, which gives her brain fog and makes decision-making difficult.

Kelly O'Hagan joined in the conversation, recognizing a fellow unhoused person. She often brings her dog, Emanuel.

"I lived here in Northeast Portland all my life," O'Hagan said. "It's a good mall, they should keep it up. It's where everybody meets at. I've never seen a fight break out here. I've been coming to Lloyd Center all my life. We all come, even the homeless, we all come here. I come inside, outside, wherever. I come and get my phone and pay for my phone. And they let my dog in."

When she moved here, Li had her car looted and destroyed in the first week. Later she was living in an RV and growing cannabis. "So, it was easy to get displaced." Now after several weeks in a tent and unable to keep physically clean, she can't manage her health issues.

"When I was able to make a living, this is where I would come to shop. That was when they had the little animal carts for kids. And I imagine I would come here again. This whole time I've been working on a graphic novel which is @zenchroniclesnPDX."

So, after Christmas Li is heading home to her mom in Tennessee. But Lloyd Center has been helpful. That day, she used the bathroom and went to the Dollar Tree. "And I got a bit of Christmas cheer," she said of the mall's tree and decorations.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Danica Holtan was playing Coconut, Santa's elf, as the teacher has done for 10 years, greeting families and orienting them. "Even though we're going more into the digital age, the ice skating rink is definitely something that keeps this place and the holiday spirit alive."

Lloyd Center's Santa is not a mall money-maker, but he is a big draw. It's pay what you want, take your own photos and the proceeds go to a teen foster care charity. Schoolteacher Danica Holtan was playing Coconut the elf, as she has done for 10 years, greeting families and orienting them.

"Over the years, traffic has really slowed down because the shops are closing, because we're moving more toward online," Holtan said. "Even though we're going more into the digital age, the ice skating rink is definitely something that keeps this place and the holiday spirit alive."

Asked what the new owners could do she said, "Keep the events. Santa's still coming, Easter Bunny is still coming, so you have that holiday fun for the kids and family."

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Luz Gonzales was working the 5 0 TREE pop-up store on the mall's lower level. "Sometimes they don't want to go all the way to Clackamas or to the other Washington place. This is kind of the middle point for a lot of people."

5 0 TREE is a classic Portland brand, found on hats, hoodies and stickers, with no real meaning beyond the pun. The owner Edgar Mercado screenprints everything by hand and embroidery is done at the mall's Stitchworks kiosk.

Luz Gonzales was working the pop-up store on the mall's lower level, in the blighted wing near the former Old Navy. It's their third year doing this at Lloyd Center.

"We just entered here right after Thanksgiving, probably until the end of the year. Sales, little by little, get better, when people start thinking last-minute gifts and stuff. Sometimes they don't want to go all the way to Clackamas or to the other Washington place. This is kind of the middle point for a lot of people."

Gonzales said they used to do the Skidmore Saturday Market but it has folded because people are scared. "Especially being downtown, right there in the middle of a lot of sad homelessness."

Across the street, a middle-age man had pitched his tent on the sidewalk by the bus stop and was walking back and forth in animated conversation with himself, avoiding other people. Inside the mall, upstairs, a grubby young man walked slowly around, also in a heated dialog with himself. In the almost-empty food court he was functional enough to buy lunch. The next day at 8:20 in the morning, another young man was talking to himself on the deck of the parking garage in the cold rain. None of these three were on the phone. Clearly Lloyd Center is a safe space for people with schizophrenia.

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Ricardo Montanez sees a lot, as he works the booth at Metro by T-Mobile. Opposite the Sunglass Hut opposite. "You could grab a pair of sunglasses right now, walk out and nobody would do a thing. Staff don't do anything and then there's no security guards."

Ricardo Montanez sees a lot, as he works the booth at Metro by T-Mobile.

"I've seen a lot more people at the ice rink. They're coming out. Even though there's not many stores open, there's a lot of foot traffic."

Montanez had heard the mall's new owners intend to revitalize it. "I'm from Vancouver, but I've met a lot of people here that were very sad about it. Because it's so historical. So just seeing how other people feel about it excites me that it's still open."

His one wish would be for improved security.

"I believe a lot of vendors left because of the amount of theft." He has seen much better security near the Metro booths in Clackamas, where they seem to have more power to restrict shoplifters.

Montanez gestures at the Sunglass Hut opposite.

"You could grab a pair of sunglasses right now, walk out and nobody would do a thing. Staff don't do anything, and then there's no security guards."

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Meadow Seeley manages Claire's where she pierces a lot of ears and keeps an eye out for shoplifters, some of whom are harder to spot now that they wear wigs and masks. "The neighborhood people still come inl they're awesome."

"(The new owners) said they're not closing, which I knew all along, because I've lived in this neighborhood my whole life. I used to live on 12th and Northeast Hancock my whole childhood, we always worked at the mall."

Meadow Seeley manages Claire's where she pierces a lot of ears and keeps an eye out for shoplifters, some of whom are harder to spot now that they wear wigs and masks.

Seeley says shops have been closing because of COVID-19, which also killed foot traffic from the Oregon Convention Center, the Moda Center and offices in the Lloyd District.

"The neighborhood people still come in; they're awesome." She thinks new management should install a walking track, because a lot of people come to exercise, and maybe a Saturday Market-type craft market.

"Something with the community to bring people in. The neighborhood here has tons of great people in it; it's not all crime. People don't go downtown for much anymore, they come here. Downtown's been destroyed."

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - Firas Turkmani works in commercial rea estate financing in New York City and was visiting family for the week. "It's good to see this many people at least walking around. I've seen deader malls. Upstate New York malls, I'm telling you, that's really dead. The only thing people are going there for is to get vaccinated."

Firas Turkmani works in commercial real estate financing and had plenty to say about Lloyd Center on his first visit. He was liking it a lot. He and his wife live in the West Village in Manhattan and own a home in upstate New York. They came to ski and visit his wife's family in Portland. They were being shown around the mall by their tween niece.

"We heard that this is the place to go and it's the only ice rink-slash-mall in Portland," Turkmani said.

He didn't think the closed shops looked too bad.

"She showed me one that was a T-shirt shop and is now an arcade, so that's kind of positive," he said. "It's good to see this many people at least walking around. I've seen deader malls. Upstate New York malls, I'm telling you, that's really dead. The only thing people are going there for is to get vaccinated."

He said in his business, repurposing buildings is the name of the game. "It's just basically musical chairs. This building physically exists, it can be repurposed a million times. People don't want to buy old tired, tired, tired assets or ground up development, because they don't have the time for that. They want to go in, take what's existing and just flip the switch."

In a city, more so than the suburbs, a mall is attractive because it gives the people in housing something to do, and politicians like it because it brings in more taxes, or at least in states with a sales tax.

"Every single person in our business (real estate) says this is the best year that we've ever had. This (Lloyd Center) is just a change of hands. Someone buys it for a little bit less and does a little changing. But it's not like complete devastation."

He says online shopping will never kill malls.

"It's like cabs and Ubers: There is a degree of being able to hail someone on the side of the street. That customer you're always going to have. So why not have both?"


Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Portland Tribune
971-204-7874
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow us on


You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.


Have a thought or opinion on the news of the day? Get on your soapbox and share your opinions with the world. Send us a Letter to the Editor!

Go to top
JSN Time 2 is designed by JoomlaShine.com | powered by JSN Sun Framework