Imagine, if you will, a 23-acre campus for the most downtrodden people in Portland.
It’s a stroll across Holladay Park from the MAX Blue and Red lines, sheltered from winter rain by a glass cathedral ceiling. Inside: apartments for people who would otherwise sleep on sidewalks or in doorways. Women and families get first dibs. Down two escalators, social workers offer addiction counseling and job training. Parking garages welcome RVs. There’s a soup kitchen where the food court used to be.
You’ve already been imagining this, judging from the emails we’ve received about future uses for Lloyd Center Mall.
Last week, WW explored six ideas for the iconic mall going into foreclosure, and asked readers to submit their own ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. What the lender will actually do remains an open question. (For more on this, listen to this week’s episode of the Dive podcast, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and wweek.com.) But by overwhelming consensus, what Portlanders want is clear: America’s largest homeless shelter.
“This is a prime location as a service center for the homeless,” writes Char Pennie. “Not only to address the housing crisis as they freeze to death on the streets of Portland this winter but also as a complete one-stop-shopping service center.”
The appetite for turning the Lloyd Center into what advocates often describe as a “homeless navigation center” speaks to the intense frustration and pity citizens of this city feel in the face of mounting homelessness. But it may also reflect the desire for a grand civic gesture—an action that matches the scale of the moment.
On this page, you’ll find six more ideas we’ve received for the biggest development opportunity in the city. (Several have been edited for length and clarity.) Keep sending them, and we’ll keep running them until Christmas.
A botanical garden:
“Remove the buildings and parking lots completely and turn the property into Portland’s next park. Let’s make it a botanical garden with community gardens on the edges. It could also host a permaculture training center. A place where people can learn how to farm their yards and a hub for things like The City Repair Project, the Portland Fruit Tree Project, Friends of Trees and the city’s Parks Department. I’m sure we could create something fantastic.” —Albert Kaufman
A climate-tech incubator:
“So one of Nick Kristof’s priorities as a governor hopeful is to turn Oregon into a hub for climate change tech and green energy. Let’s get some federal + Gates + Bezos + Musk funds to make that happen. Bring together the best minds in green technology, design, building, sustainability, social equity; have some manufacturing capability to build/showcase prototypes, proofs of concept; bring together leaders and innovators from around the world; run a first-class green tech design training facility. If there’s room, add affordable housing units, tenants can train in green tech! Maybe elsewhere on ‘campus’ we could have a homeless treatment center: transitional and/or indefinite-term housing + onsite therapy and rehab facilities; capable people in transition could train for living-wage jobs in green energy! (A ‘sustainable’ use of our ‘people’ resources!)
“And yeah, keep the ice rink as a nod to the past. Operate it on ‘green’ energy at some point in the near future!” —Mary Senatori
A street grid in the shape of crop circles:
“Greetings, having seen live crop circles near Salisbury Hill, England, in ‘96, and knowing some of the patterns might fit in a bare 18 block grid reasonably well, I envision the streets of the ‘new’ community rendered in a crop circle similar to the attached. Or, perhaps, in the shape of a key. The streets would be the groundwork of a wholly separate series of structures, spaces or projects. But the streets would be visible in the crop circle shape from the air.
“P.S. There’s also the Nazca Lines to emulate…or both!” —GW Command
A public market:
“Make it like the Markthal in Rotterdam. Has housing, food, and retail space. We’ll also need to get something done about the streets so that it sits in a no traffic zone. It could revitalize the whole area.” —Gary Primack
“I recommend that the developers check out Sawmill Market in Albuquerque, and Pybus Market in Wenatchee. Both ‘grew out’ of old warehouses. They have revitalized their neighborhoods, they support local farmers, wineries and restaurants, and are spectacular tourist destinations. Sawmill is also located next gto low income and senior housing complexes.” —Eunice Letzing
A youth club and working-class gym:
“My idea for the Lloyd Center mall is to provide a youth center, housing and necessary day-to-day living measures for the homeless and poor, and a wellness center and gym for the public to use.
“The amount of gym space available to the public is devastating. Unless you pay an incredible amount of money to the MAC, there aren’t many gyms for cheap.
“Many Portland Public Schools have to cut kids from basketball teams because they don’t have the gym space. I run a youth basketball program and we practice outside in the winter…not ideal.” —Jacob Green
A Museum of Capitalism:
“A little less than half of the mall has been saved both as a living memorial to teens and their times and an ode to the bountiful post FDR-era architecture.
“In between all these new and beautiful places for people and greenery are seven well-placed and stylish five-story affordable housing buildings, in the center courtyard of each is, respectively: a skateboard park, a roller rink, a wild area with stream, pond and lunchtime seating, a big/small dogs park, a large community gardens, a lovely sensory park for kids & the elderly to hang out, and a night-sky observatory with guided tours.
“The oft-quoted & wise Statue of Coins is still at Multnomah & 9th but now fully flows in its place of honor outside the ornate and grand front doors of The Museum of Capitalism and the adjacent Wall of Apologies.
“The museum’s FREE show this month: The Root of All Evil & Anxious Returns, runs through this spring.
“The impressive and tall We’re So Sorry We F$@#!d You Over!! Statue (dedicated to the former unhoused, people of color, women, children, the elderly, and the disabled) and the Free Coins & Organic Candy For All! Installations are, of course, open year-round.” —Linn Groves