A Historic Beginning
In Tigard, Oregon, nestled amidst the hustle and bustle, lies a testament to the evolution of commerce and community – the Washington Square Mall.
Sprawling over 130 acres, it’s hard to imagine a time when this shopping complex, brimming with life and activity, was just a blueprint in the minds of its developers.
In 1972, the announcement echoed across the state – Winmar Pacific, Inc., was set to construct Oregon‘s largest shopping mall. The design was ambitious, aiming to accommodate 100 stores within its L-shaped pattern, covering an impressive one million square feet.
The mall sprang to life, with Meier & Frank, the first tenant, opening its doors in August 1973. By February 1974, the grand opening had taken place, marking the start of a new chapter for the cities of Beaverton and Tigard.
Evolution through the 1970s and Beyond
The Washington Square Mall was not destined to remain stagnant. Like a living organism, it grew and adapted, reflecting the changing retail landscape.
The year 1978 saw Frederick & Nelson take over the Liberty House store on the mall’s north side, only to relocate to the former Lipman’s space the following year. This move paved the way for Mervyn’s to fill the void, launching its 80,000-square-foot store in October 1979.
The mid-1980s brought another transformation, not within the mall but around it. The cities of Beaverton, Tigard, and Portland engaged in a tug-of-war for the right to annex the unincorporated territory housing the mall.
Eventually, Tigard emerged victorious, adding the mall, the adjacent Lincoln Center, and the Embassy Suites Hotel to its jurisdiction.
Late 20th Century: A Time of Prosperity
As the mall entered the 90s, it experienced a shakeup in its retail lineup. Following Frederick & Nelson’s bankruptcy, Nordstrom stepped in, acquiring the vacant space and embarking on a construction project to create a larger store.
Coinciding with this was reconfiguring the former Nordstrom space into a food court and additional retail space.
The late 90s heralded a significant change in the mall’s ownership. In December 1998, Safeco sold the mall to a partnership comprising The Macerich Company and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. The mall thrived as the new millennium approached, with sales nearing $500 per square foot.
Embracing the New Millennium
As the 21st century dawned, the mall continued to flourish under the stewardship of Macerich. In 2005, the company undertook a significant expansion project, adding 30 more stores to the complex, including popular brands like The Cheesecake Factory, Sephora, and Godiva Chocolatier. These improvements breathed new life into the mall, reinforcing its position as a top-tier shopping destination.
Vision for the Future: Embracing Change
Today, the mall stands at the precipice of yet another transformation. The City of Tigard has proposed an ambitious redevelopment plan for the mall’s surrounding area, focusing on active transportation.
The plan aims to fill in missing sidewalks and bike lanes, improve crossings at major intersections, and introduce a nine-mile bike and walking facility known as the Washington Square Loop.
The mall itself is poised for a makeover, courtesy of Macerich. The company’s vision of redefining the shopping mall experience includes an activated community plaza, round-the-clock energy from hotel guests and residences, and unique entertainment.
This moves away from big box stores toward a smaller, more urban-feeling retail experience is part of a broader shift toward experiential retail. The city of Tigard is banking on this re-orientation to create the synergy needed to attract other residential and commercial developers to the area.
The future looks promising for the Washington Square Mall. It is not just a shopping complex but a vibrant community hub that has evolved.
The mall has stood the test of time, adapting and growing in response to changing retail trends and community needs. It serves as a reminder of our past while offering a glimpse into the future.
Reflection and Conclusion
The Washington Square Mall is more than just a commercial center; it’s a testament to the resilience of the local community and the ever-changing retail landscape. Over the years, it has witnessed a series of transformations, each breathing new life into the mall and reinforcing its status as a top-tier shopping destination.
From the announcement of its construction in 1972 to the proposed redevelopment plans in the present day, the mall’s journey is an intriguing tale of ambition, innovation, and perseverance.
It’s not just about the stores that have come and gone but the experiences shared, the memories made, and the community that has flourished within its walls.
As we look to the future, it’s clear that the Washington Square Mall will continue to evolve and adapt, meeting the community’s needs and shaping Tigard’s retail landscape. It stands as a beacon of progress, a symbol of adaptability, and a community cornerstone.