A mock-up of the renovations coming to Lloyd Center Mall in Portland hangs in a hallway on the first floor.

A mock-up of the renovations coming to Lloyd Center Mall in Portland hangs in a hallway on the first floor.

Julie Sabatier/OPB

When Portland’s Lloyd Center mall opened in August 1960, it was a big deal. An estimated 5,000 people attended the opening ceremony of what was called the largest shopping center in the world, at the time. Mark Hatfield, who was governor of Oregon, and then-Portland mayor Terry Schrunk spoke at the event. According to Portland State University professor emeritus of urban studies and planning Carl Abbott, Schrunk also released 700 homing pigeons to carry news of the Lloyd Center opening far and wide. 

“It was the first big shopping center in Oregon,” Abbott told OPB’s Think Out Loud. “It also put the east side of Portland on the map in a way that it hadn’t been before.”

Fast forward 55 years, and the place is currently in the midst of a $50 million remodel.

“Lloyd Center is very big and very grand,” said the shopping center’s new general manager Bob Dye. “We’re going to put some great polish on the place.”

A mock-up of the renovations coming to Lloyd Center Mall in Portland.

A mock-up of the renovations coming to Lloyd Center Mall in Portland.

Julie Sabatier/OPB

Dye has been in retail property management for decades and left his stamp on hundreds of properties around the country, as well as his native Hawaii. In July, he started his new position and he says the DNA of the mall is “crazy cool.” He faces the challenge of keeping the mall relevant in the face of competition from standalone boutiques and online retailers.

Planned renovations include a glass atrium and a spiral staircase spanning three levels. In addition to new carpet and tile, the mall’s famous ice skating rink will be re-shaped and slightly smaller. The food court will also see changes.

“Fabulous restaurants are the plan,” according to Dye.

A mock-up of the renovations coming to Lloyd Center Mall in Portland.

A mock-up of the renovations coming to Lloyd Center Mall in Portland.

Julie Sabatier/OPB

Dye says one thing that will help Lloyd Center stay relevant and attract new shoppers is the development that’s currently going on around it. 

“I think that’s what makes the difference between our retail property and most other retail properties in most metropolitan areas,” said Dye. “My feeling is that Lloyd District as a whole is the new cool.”

Amazon recently announced that its “Prime Now” service will be available in Portland, offering delivery of certain items within an hour. But Dye says he’s not concerned about the competition from online retailers.

“People still want to be able to see and touch what they’re buying,” he said. “Brick and mortar retail is not going anywhere.”