Lloyd Center, the stalwart 1960 shopping center, saw the opening of the new grand entrance and stairway on Thursday, July 27, after an 18-month, $50 million remodel.
Representatives from CAPREF Lloyd Center LLC, the investment firm from Dallas, Texas that owns the mall, joined mall general manager Robert Dye at a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting ceremony. The public flooded the new entrance, which was cut though the wall beside Macy's, and the white spiral stairway that leads to the second and third floors.
Other features of the remodel, which have been open for some time, include the newly shaped ice rink, a place to rent skates as well as a streamlined atrium. The view from the food court down to the ice is now unobstructed by bridges.
Todd Minnis, Managing Partner at CAPREF Lloyd Center, said they invested because the mall has "great bones" and is well located.
"It's a great piece of retail real estate. It has transformed numerous times, and it's got to connect better with the community." The east and west end of the mall will be transformed. He says they have a client lined up for the former Nordstrom space and the rest of the mall will have "a lot more entertainment, experiential retail and restaurants, things that draw people in. This used to be a three anchor mall, I think it's going to be a one anchor mall," he said, referring to Macy's.
"This is the most dense neighborhood in the city, with 450,000 people within a five-mile radius of Lloyd Center. We have the infrastructure, there's 30,000 employees in the Lloyd District. The problem was there was no investment in the asset for 15 years, so we have to go though a major transformation. But we do this all around the country."
Minnis says the aim is to have eight to 12 full-service restaurants in the mall to serve the daytime area workers.
Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers entertained the crowd (most of them mall workers and students) in a nod to mall boss Robert Dye's Pacific Islander heritage.
In July, 2015, Bob Dye replaced Wanda Rosenbarger when she retired as the mall's general manager after 34 years. In a sit-down with the Business Tribune, Dye said the remodel was part of a larger plan for the Lloyd District, and that time would show that retail can thrive in a booming neighborhood.
"I think 'the malls are hurting' message is overstated, I really do. Retail is very cyclical. I've seen these changes a few times. Every five to seven years you see retailers come and go, there are names that are no longer here today that were the hottest things in the '80s and 90s. Then less than five years ago a whole bunch of them disappeared."
Retail has to stay hip, and brick and mortar sales still have an advantage in a few fields: sensory and social experience.
"Customer service is paramount, and you have to keep up with changing tastes. The ones that keep up survive. It's purely my opinion but people still want the tactile experience. There's a reason why successful retailers have both. Amazon.com, the king of online stores, now has a store at Washington Square. Apple's retail stores are the reason why they are in the position they are in. They get to see it in person as opposed to seeing it on a computer screen."
Come for the chinos, stay for the bridgework
Asked how can a retailer keep people coming back, he said:
"Keep it fresh, keep it new, provide the experience that the customer wants. I don't think brick and mortar will ever go away. A shopping center provides a sense of place. Many communities it takes the place of the town square. For us, our biggest gathering spot is our ice rink. It's social, and it's entertainment. A lot of successful shopping centers have theaters, like Bridgeport Village, which I opened in 2005, which has an 18 screen theater and an IMAX. We have a theater across the street," he says, referring to the Regal Lloyd Center 10 & IMAX. (Regal Lloyd Mall 8 was closed in 2015 and replaced with offices.)
Dye cites other services at Lloyd Center: a dermatologist, two dentists, insurance, tax preparation, a beauty school, The Portland English Language Academy and Carrington College, which is related to DeVry Online College and University.
One of the things that makes Lloyd Center unique is it's an urban center with a changing landscape around it.
"We have Hassalo on Eighth, which has 650 units, and probably a phase two the same size. And you have the Lloyd Center Community which will be around 700 units," he says referring to the development slated for the parking lot opposite the Regal Lloyd Center 10 & IMAX movie theater.
Dye says they have no way of tracking how many people from Hassalo on Eighth use the shopping center. But he hopes the number will increase. "We're just getting into leasing the spaces we had on hold while we've been doing all this work. Quite a few are earmarked for food and we think they will draw in people living in Hassalo and the community across the street and the ones to come."
Design for shopping
Back inside, Dye says there is other work planned in future phases, but the complete renovation of the interior is complete. The design is by Portland architect firm Waterleaf. "We used the mid-century modern design cues for the renovation, we took the drywall off the original terrazzo columns and cleaned and polished them. They're beautiful. And we brought back the original spiral stairway from when it was an out door mall, but much grander, much larger. That's one of my favorite components of the project."
The steel reinforced concrete columns go all the way down and when they were reinforced they were covered in sheetrock. Dye believes they restore a sense of character to the building.
The new entrance lines up with the sidewalk that brings shoppers in from the MAX.
The center always felt closed off from the street because of the need for parking on the long sides. So the remodel is supposed to help non-drivers too.
"The center was built around the automobile, there are 11 different points for when you come into the parking garage. That was back in the day when the car ruled. Now we still accommodate the car, but we have people walking and bicycling and even skateboarding. But not in the mall please!"
Lloyd Center: Chill
Behind the scenes there is a new $13 million energy system.
"We brought in two new 1,500 ton chillers, and an energy management system so we can cool and heat the center more efficiently. And when we moved the ice rink east and changed it to an
ellipse. And that brought it under the skylights and brightens everything. Everything is brighter."
They added theatrical lighting on motorized trusses which come up and down for adjustment, as well as two blue boxes classed as snow machines. They sprinkle fake snow on the skaters.
He is hoping for an influx of young blood.
"It's safe to say the people living in Hassalo are the Millennial, I would guess. Young professionals. The Lloyd District reminds me a bit of Reston, Virginia, it's self-contained. You've got your housing, your employment...we actually have more daytime workers here in Lloyd Center than they do in Century City (California). 25,000 people come to work in the Lloyd District every day."
Lloyd Center: Lit
Before the remodel there were two bridges across the ice rink that blocked views and the light. With the new tile from Italy and the new subway tile, he believes the center feels more airy and inviting.
"We made the rink more family friendly. When it was the larger, rectangular shape, the more athletic skaters could get a lot of speed. When you're a family with a couple of kids and you've got some hot dog whipping by at 60 miles an hour, it's intimidating. It slows things down. The vast majority of our businesses are families, and that's who we want to cater to."
There are plenty of blank retail units in the food court, next to Chicken Connection, Bridge City and Dickie's. Some closed during construction because the barricades meant there was not enough room for a line to form. Dye expects them to be leased soon. The former restaurant, near Carrington College on the third floor, awaits a tenant.
He points out the "1960s style" of the wooden slatted sign hanging over the ice rink with the new Lloyd Center logo.
The spiral staircase is supposed to be a statement piece, a place for selfies and it may even attract escalator people who will at least walk down the stairs, if not up.
The skate center, known as the ice chalet, has been opened up. "This was like a tunnel, now it has a lot of natural light," he says. No longer a dark cavern, it has a neon light shaped like a skater's trace, new lockers, and pride of place goes Woody, to the 120-year-old wooden sculpture of a skater.
The Engo, a version of a Zamboni, sits in its own corral and is expected to provide some of the entertainment.
Engos, walkers and knee scooters
Despite all the changes, the Lloyd Centers hours will remain 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
"We have people here at 5:30 in the morning to get in. The doors are unlocked for workers who have to get in. Probably most of them get here at 7 a.m."
Dye was a serious road cyclist for 30 years and reinjured his plant foot and didn't allow it to heal. Clicking in and out of the binding while wearing bike shoes kept creating more scar tissue and didn't give it time to heal.
Four years ago his foot collapsed when he stepped on a pebble in Maui in his carbon shoes. Since then the doctor has said he can't cycle any more, and now he needs an operation followed by two months of complete rest for the foot.
All that means no driving and he would have to use a knee scooter for two months.
"I'm considering renting a place in Hassalo and using the knee scooter to get in here. Someone suggested Uber and I added that up and it came to $500 a week!" to commute from his home in Newberg.
Dye sums up the changes he has overseen in his first two years.
"We're exceedingly proud of what we have accomplished here. We have opened up new doors to our community, and we have updated the center while bringing back elements of our past that are key to our DNA. I promise you the owners of the center feel the same way, and wouldn't have made this investment had they not had huge confidence in the viability of Lloyd Center and the livability of the Lloyd District. I'm telling you, two years from the new shopping center is going to be a powerhouse in the neighborhood, and the entire neighborhood is going to be the place to be."
Is he going to move there?
"I might! I might! I may be forced to!"
Lloyd Center history
Lloyd Center was the biggest mall in America when it opened in 1960, and it still has superregional status (like the Three Rivers Mall in Longview) despite all the competition that has sprung up since.
It seems unlikely that Portland will ever have a megamall like the Mall of the Americas, or the Mills series of projects (e.g. Katy Mills near Houston, Texas). The excursion malls with fleets of buses lined up? Not here. However, Dye does think Lloyd Center has enough personality to draw shoppers looking for an experience.
"One of the things that's unique about Lloyd Center is that the design, inside and out, is very Portland. You could take some of the other centers and put them in other markets and they would look like they belong in the other markets. Lloyd Center belongs in Portland. It has a rich history. Louis Armstrong played his trumpet here. Find me another mall that can say that?"
Ice rink prices
One Time Admission $13
Skate Rental $4
All day Admission $15 Mon-Wed