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Portland's Mall 205 is finally giving up the ghost

Most small businesses in Mall 205's indoor space have been empty for years; those that remain will close after March 31.

PORTLAND, Oregon — They say spring is a season of rebirth. At Mall 205 in Southeast Portland, it also means the death of its old “mall” business model. But depending on who you ask, that happened a long time ago.

“It was so dead, like a ghost town,” said Matthew Demilly, who was visiting the DMV at Mall 205, which now takes up some of the mall’s old storefront space.

On Wednesday, only two small stores were open in the once-thriving indoor shopping space. One of those stores was Demba, a sports merchandise kiosk.

“They keep telling me this mall used to be the best mall,” said Demba owner Moustapha Gueye. “But unfortunately, it is what it is.”

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Down the way from Demba, we found All American Magic. Amber Catlin and her husband have owned the business for nearly 10 years. For both businesses, March 31 will be their last day at Mall 205.

“I'm excited now, but at first I was like 'where are we going to go?'” said Catlin. “We had no notice, they told us we had two weeks to get out.”

Catlin got the notice to vacate from Rhino Holdings Marketplace 205, LLC, part of Nevada-based Rhino Investments. Catlin said they later gave her 30 days to pack up. KGW reached out to Rhino Investments but they did not immediately respond to emails.

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“So sad,” said Gueye.

Mall 205 opened in 1970. Old newspaper ads harken back to its heyday; Montgomery Ward gave away a 1971 Gremlin at its grand opening, and the mall touted its “climate controlled” environment. Parents would shop while kids would play. Demilly remembers that from his own childhood.

“It was like the place to hang out,” said Demilly. “They had a big arcade, pet store, everything the [Clackamas] Town Center got.”

Recent renovations brought in big stores like Target, Home Depot and the DMV. Traditional mall space shrank. Tenants left. So did customers. Eventually, those big stores walled-off their mall entrances for security reasons.

“That really impacted all of our businesses on the inside especially during the holidays,” said Catlin.

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In a twist of irony, both Catlin and Gueye are moving their businesses to the Lloyd Center, a mall which many think is also dying. All of its anchor stores are gone but new owners are renovating the mall and seeking new tenants.

“Tell everybody to come see us at Lloyd Center!” said Gueye.

“I think us moving there is just what Lloyd Center needs to come back,” added Catlin. “Because that mall cannot close.”

As for the future of Mall 205, current tenants said they hear the soon-to-be-vacated space will be used to house Hobby Lobby and Burlington. What Catlin knows for sure is she won't be there.

“You get close to something whether it's a mall or whatever it may be and it's going away,” said Catlin. “Everything's changing. The whole world's been changing.”

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