PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There is a Christmas tree. The skating rink is open. So is the original Joe Brown’s Carmel Corn.
But what hits you right away about the Lloyd Center is the emptiness.
David Utzinger, Ken Brown and Jon Berthold, who were all part of the Benson High School Class of 1966, met at the Lloyd Center food court recently to share memories before what looks like the end of the line for what was once called the largest open-air shopping mall in the nation, with more than 100 stores.
“Yeah, it’s different. Not many shops still open from what I can see,” Utzinger said. “We just thought it would be a great way to say goodbye to Lloyd Center.”
The Lloyd Center “was a big deal” back in 1966. That’s why the group came to share one final memory together.
Brown and Berthold have an even stronger connection. They were hiking on the coast as teenagers when rocks on the cliff began to shift under Brown’s feet.
“There was no coming back, trust me,” Brown said. “Then I felt this hand pulling me back. This guy saved my life!”
Berthold said the Lloyd Center “was just a fun place for Baby Boomers like ourselves to run around, and girls and guys just running around.”
“My mom worked here. My brother-in-law worked here. I worked for Stevens and Sons here back in the day,” Brown said. “That was a long time ago.”
The group doesn’t know if this is the last holiday season for Lloyd Center Mall.
“I’m expecting it to be fully torn down, as far as I can tell,” Utzinger said. “I mean, somebody’s going to develop this area.”
Pauline Long, whose dad went to Benson High, knows it’s a long shot, “but I really think it can survive. I really do.”
In a press release on Monday, Lloyd Center management announced new owners and a new operator. Urban Renaissance Group is partnering with KKR Real Estate Finance Trust to lead the Lloyd Center revitalization.
Urban Renaissance is a development company with offices in Seattle and Portland. The company says they’ll get input from the public to determine what the Lloyd Center will become.
Although its future is still up in the air, what is guaranteed to survive are all of those Lloyd Center memories.
Meanwhile, Benson Tech is undergoing a major renovation. Its students and staff are at the Marshall Campus in Southeast Portland until the renovations are completed in 2024.