By Christina Cooke
LA Fitness has filled a vacancy at the Lloyd Center mall in Portland.
// Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina
To cope with vacancies left by the recession, the urban mall has added non-retail establishments such as LA Fitness, the Johnson Center for Pelvic Health, Carrington College dental and nursing schools and the Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar to the retail mix.
“We’ve got the advantage of being in the Lloyd District, so there are a lot of uses that can cater to the people who live and work in the area,” says T.J. Drought, the director of leasing for Glimcher Realty Trust, the Ohio-based company that oversees the mall.
When regional vendors of specialty goods and national big-box stores like Borders, Linens ’n Things, Circuit City, Blockbuster and Hollywood Video succumbed to the ailing economy, Oregon mall and shopping center landlords had to adapt their leasing strategies to fill the vacancies.
Many responded by bringing in service providers, especially medical and dental clinics and fitness centers, and adding entertainment venues like bowling alleys and sports bars.
“I’ve worked with a lot of owners who have learned to look outside the box,” says Dan Bozich, senior vice president of Urban Works Real Estate. “As the economy got more difficult, they started to look at nontraditional tenants as more of a positive and less of a negative.”
Valley River Center in Eugene temporarily housed Grand Slam USA batting cages. Pioneer Place in downtown Portland leased empty third-level atrium spaces to temporary art exhibits and the Dollar Book Fair. Tanasbourne Town Center in Beaverton, Keizer Station outside Salem and Eugene’s Valley River, as well as multiple urban shopping centers, welcomed dental clinics to their properties. And in Vancouver, the Living Hope mega-church took over the former Kmart on Andresen Road.
“The good thing about those uses is typically they’re more short-term leases, and it creates flexibility for the landlord,” says Alesha Shemwell, a senior leasing manager for The Macerich Company, which works with Washington Square and Valley River. “It keeps the occupancy the mall needs to continue to attract customers.”