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There’s, like, Jantzen Beach

May 1, 2010
Need retail space?

Jantzen Beach has lots of empty storefronts these days (Orin O’Neill photos)

Last weekend, the weather was nice enough to make a ride somewhere almost mandatory. I decided to go to Jantzen Beach, and had I remembered to bring the camera I would’ve shared this with you then.

Of course, I didn’t. So I went back earlier today.

When I was a kid, family vacations were mostly visits to relatives in distant cities. The relatives lived in houses, rather than apartments as my family did, but otherwise the visits weren’t much different than being at home. The license plates on the cars were different colors, and the TV shows were on different channels, but otherwise we mostly did the same things we did at home, like go to the mall.

When I was young, that mall was Lloyd Center. When I got older, the Portland trips involved a stay at the big hotel on the river that seemed to change its name annually; the mall was Jantzen Beach (Super)Center.

To this day I don’t know exactly where the beach is—swimming was done in the hotel’s pool. But the mall is pretty hard to miss.

Formerly Linens n Things

Formerly Linens ‘n Things

The mall has not been immune to the tanking of retail in the last couple of years. Jantzen Beach SuperCenter seems to have been built with the idea that nearly all of its customers would be coming south from Washington to avoid that state’s sales tax.

Portland has lots of malls (for that matter, so does Vancouver, Wash.), so there’s really not a compelling reason for Portlanders to come to Jantzen Beach. And as the price of gas has risen, probably little likelihood of saving enough money not paying sales tax.

Formerly Circuit City

Formerly Circuit City

Not only are there other branches of the same chains in parts of Portland that are easier to get to, most of the ones here seemed to be the ones that were struggling anyway. And as you can see, no other chains have stepped in to fill the spaces left by the likes of Linens ‘n Things and Circuit City.

Things are much worse inside the mall.

Empty storefronts

The only cash flow being generated here is from the gumball machines.

The mall's empty

Remember, the picture above was taken on a Saturday. That’s when most malls are busiest. If this is a busy day, the place is in trouble, deep.

The mall has a nail salon

You usually see nail salons in neighborhoods on the verge of gentrification.

Empty food court stall

Even the food court has taken a hit. Which is sad, because the only thing that might offer a compelling reason to visit is just a few yards away.

1904 carousel

This carousel was built in 1904 for the World’s Fair in St. Louis. I’m sure the story of how it ended up in Portland, Oregon is an interesting one, but you’ll have to go looking for that on your own. Click here to see a larger, more detailed version of the image.

If you want to see this ghost mall in the making for yourself, getting here will involve a brief sprint on I-5, since the mall is located on Hayden Island. Luckily, northbound traffic is slowed by the Interstate Bridge, while on Saturdays, the congestion begins just past the Marine Drive/MLK exit. The pavement in both directions is in good shape.

So what’s going to happen to Jantzen Beach SuperCenter? Well, in spite of what some people are trying to do, big-box retail isn’t going to return to its pre-Great Recession level. In fact, there are more than a few lists out there containing the names of retailers that are considered unlikely to be around in 2011.

I’m betting on cheap artists’ space. There is an established pattern, after all: big, empty buildings in an abandoned neighborhood get carved up into studio space at pennies a square foot (if that), artists move in, arts scene is established, fickle people obsessed with being cool latch onto it and make it The Next Big Thing, whereupon developers come in and build pricey condos, driving the artists and everything else that made people want to move there in the first place, out. Rinse and repeat. Think Belltown in Seattle, think the Pearl District in Portland.

In the meantime, I decide to stop in at Barnes & Noble to check on the magazine situation and have a mocha.

My 'moped' is parked

As directed, I parked my moped next to the bike rack.

One Comment
  1. May 1, 2010 7:39 pm

    What bothers me is that this sort of situation comes as a surprise to too many people.

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