Subtopic : The Federal Connection: Recovery, Energy, & War: Urban Investment
Themes: Social Relations, Politics and Government, Economics, Towns and Cities
Portland, however, did not remain as stagnant as Richard Neuberger portrayed it. On August 1, 1960, the Lloyd Center, which was vaunted as the largest shopping center in the world, opened between east Ninth and east Sixteenth avenues. With over 100 stores, including a Meier & Frank and the largest Woolworth’s and Newberry’s in the region, and featuring free parking for 8,000 cars, it challenged the congested downtown. The idea for the center began in 1923, when Ralph B. Lloyd, an oil company executive from southern California, became the only major outside investor to enter the Portland real estate market. Lloyd wanted to build a self-sufficient region, with homes, stores, and a residential hotel on fifty acres near Grand Avenue and east Glisan Street. The project, however, was delayed by the Depression, World War II, and the refusal of voters to pass bond issues to improve nearby streets.
Lloyd died in 1953, but his family corporation, with backing from the Prudential Life Insurance Company, changed plans and proceeded. When finally completed, the center had become an exclusively commercial site succumbing to the lures of the automobile. It held a Sheraton Hotel, office space for government agencies like the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as the galaxy of stores that Time called a “consumer’s cornucopia.” A few blocks to the south, a new interstate freeway was being constructed that would bring shoppers from most of northeast Portland, with connections across the Marquam Bridge to the west side as well. Downtown merchants like Forrest Berg, manager of a women’s specialty shop, expected to retain his West Hills clientele. But shaky downtown merchants more concerned about losing middle class shoppers wondered how to renew the old commercial core.
Less than a year later the city’s architecturally innovative Memorial Coliseum opened just above the east bank of the Willamette and about a half mile west of the Lloyd Center. Voters had selected the site, which had been Portland’s original African American neighborhood, in preference to a larger area also designated for urban renewal on the west side. Despite the cramped area for exhibition halls and parking, the structure gave Portland an image of strength that made it a landmark of twentieth-century public architecture.
© William Toll, 2003
Themes: Social Relations,Politics and Government,Economics,Towns and Cities
Regions: Portland Metropolitan Area
Date: 1950 - 1960
Author: William Toll
The drive of an ex-Hollywood movie director initiated the urban renewal of Portland’s east side.
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