Galleria – Just kind of sitting there

I was driving to my girlfriend’s house the other day. My Sirius radio is on the fritz, and being a rock and roll kind of guy, my local radio options are severely limited to Clear Channel crapola. So, when I’m driving around town, I’ll either plug in my I-pod, or listen to AM talk radio to get some yucks out of right-wing fearmongers like Lars Larson and the incredibly gullible people who call in. Now, I’m about as left as they come, but I have a sick fascination with right-wing radio. However, on this day, I was feeling particularly tired with our current Administration, out-of-state homophobes who want to tell loving couples that they are second class citizens, and the corporate-shills like Lars who grease their wheels. After he trotted out the tired (and woefully inaccurate) “John Kerry said that only dumb people join the military!” line for the umpteenth time, I just felt depressed. People actually believe this stuff, and they vote. And that is not funny at all.

But I’m not gonna write about that today. Today I’m gonna write about the Portland Galleria

When I first moved to Portland in ’93, the Galleria was kinda happening. Most of the spaces were leased. There were stores, restaurants, and bars filling up its various spaces. In ’95, I moved out into the Raleigh Hills area and didn’t come back much. By the time I did, in 2002, it was to take a course at the local Kaplan center to study for the LSAT. There were still a few businesses there, but there were a lot of empty spaces. I took the LSAT, and got accepted into Law School down in Salem, causing me to leave my beloved city for our craptastic state capital (sorry Salemites, but you know your city sucks).

I graduated, and now I’m back, studying for the Bar exam. Again, this brought me to the Kaplan center and their wonderful PMBR program at the Galleria. Now, however, there’s a Made in Oregon, the Western Culinary Institute, Kaplan, a children’s theater, and not much else. That is a lot of empty space just sitting there. What is it about that building that causes its businesses to go under? It’s a great location. It’s easy to get to – right on the MAX line, and right on the Streetcar line. For the drivers, there’s lots of parking nearby (a Smart Park connected via skybridge and a smaller public lot on the North side). But, for some reason, people just don’t go there.

Does somebody know something about this place that I don’t?

8 Comments so far

  1. Samuel Klein (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

    I don’t know anything anyone else doesn’t know, but if you think the Galleria was hoppin’ in ’93, then it was positively jumpin’ in ’87!

    In 1985, I had my first taste of espresso there. Coffee culture was born in Portland, yo!

    Good times. Good, good times.

  2. stan (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

    Shorter Mr. Esquire: Why does the Galleria suck ass?
    Answer: Naito family feud.

    Reallly Long Answer:The Galleria, along with a good chunk of Old Town, Montgomery Block and some other properties that have been recently sold, Made in Oregon, and the Old Import Plaza are owned by the Naito family. It’s a really long sordid family melodrama that really isn’t worth rehashing but the Naito story is pretty important to modern Portland. Brothers Sam and Bill, build up a nice biz that they inherited from their father and had to rebuild after interment during WWII. Bill has an eye for real estate, the fact that all of Old Town didn’t get demolished postwar he should get a decent amount of credit for. Sam is the more old fashioned of the brothers and concentrates are running the family’s traditional business its retail outlets. Bill gets a lot of laurels from the biz community and the community at large. Sam feels that he isn’t being respected.

    When Bill dies and the all the tension that had been bubbling just below the surface turns into trench warfare. Family members choose up sides and lawyer up. Lawsuits ensue over how stock is being allocated and to settle who really is in charge. If I remember correctly there were at least two trials and one appeal.

    In the interim the Galleria kind of lingered. It actually was remodeled a few years back and Western Culinary was brought in as a tenant. Some didn’t see that as an improvement. There was a settlement a couple of years ago and the Naito faction that took over the Galleria among other properties has been making improvements and attracting some pretty big name tenants(Brooks Brothers). Though I have to say I miss the Pho place that was in the food court.

  3. morty (unregistered) on January 5th, 2008 @ 10:07 pm

    I’d heard somewhere once that Sylvestor Pennoyer put a curse on that location after his Governor’s Mansion was moved from that locale to its current spot(now the Pennoyer Building by PGE Park).
    I can’t say one way or another whether that’s true or not but, I was a dishwasher/prep cook at Pier 101 (a fairly crappy, overpriced seafood restaurant) on the first floor back in ’88. The store room (cough*secretsmokeoutroom*cough)for the restaurant was down in the basement. Rats notwithstanding, it was fairly creepy down there. Maybe the place is hexed.

  4. Dodge Ram (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 1:14 am

    My self I think it was the NAITO feud and the “i want more money” thing just my two bits. The last time I was down there back in the real late 90’s or eary Y2K just the bottem flor was open and I think there was just 4-6 shops there that was before the cooking school went in, the time before it was in the mid 80’s the bottem 3 floors were full of shops and I think the top, what was it the top 2 or 3 floors was small offices it was jumping.

  5. LC (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 8:53 am

    Totally agree about the Naito family feud – their infighting really led to the Galleria languishing. Also, downtown as well as metropolitan Portland has really changed since the Galleria was “hopping” back in the day. Consumers now have so many other choices – Pioneer Square (both the square and the mall phase I and II), Bridgeport Village for the suburban shopping crowd, the Pearl District, all the little shopping and dining neighborhoods like Mississippi or Alberta…

    Times change, the problem is that the Galleria has had no solid plan to keep above the curve. Still, it is a great building with great bones in a great location. It just needs a total rehab on the inside to turn it into something else that better fits the market. Frankly, I’ve always wondered why that part of downtown doesn’t have more housing (you know, part of city planning goals are to have a lively 24 downtown with a mix of incomes and having more middle class and above housing in that area would help). The idea of a 8-5 Central Business District with strictly commercial and office uses and a few hotels thrown in probably isn’t the best way to achieve this goal. Too bad the housing market blows right now.

  6. tenstringesquire (unregistered) on January 6th, 2008 @ 12:57 pm

    Thanks for the comments about the history of the Galleria, everyone. Very informative, indeed.

  7. PDXJer (unregistered) on January 8th, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

    I think the horrible security around it has something to do with it as well. Not a good place to walk by at night, especially at the Max stop.

  8. Dodge Ram (unregistered) on January 8th, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

    PDXJER the thing about security “I was an amred guard for two years” it’s easier to “guard” the interior and the entrances of a building than the out side and the city cops don’t like it when you as a guard work the out side “it’s there turf” and they don’t play well with others even thoe back in 98-99 there was only 6 cops working the central precinct on the grave yard shift I think that’s it “the shift that works from late night to early morning 10pm to 6am” I worked from 5pm to 5:30am 5 days a week and boy the stories I could tell you of what I saw…

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