Center and Liberty Streets
Salem, Oregon

An urban shopping mall in Oregon's capital city evolved in phases, beginning with freestanding department stores built in the 1950s and '60s. Although not originally planned as anchors, they became components of Salem's enclosed downtown retail hub.

A 4-level (160,000 square foot), Portland-based Meier & Frank opened, as the first branch in the chain, on October 27, 1955. This store included an adjoining parking structure. J.C. Penney's 2-level (102,500 square foot) location was dedicated on January 6, 1965.

In August 1965, construction commenced on SALEM PLAZA. Built on the block bounded by Center, Liberty, Marion and High Streets, the 1.3 million dollar shopping hub was developed by Salem-based Commonwealth, Incorporated.

SALEM PLAZA consisted of a ground floor of retail, partial basement, and rooftop parking deck that could accommodate nearly 200 autos. When SALEM PLAZA was dedicated, in October 1966, it housed eighteen stores and services. These included Zales Jewelers, Leeds Qualicraft Shoes, LaPointe's and Bishop's men's wear.

In the late 1970s, the city of Salem purchased all parcels comprising the city block south of SALEM PLAZA. The property was cleared, leaving only a savings & loan office standing. Ground was broken in February 1979.

A 2-level interior mall was built. Anchored by a 2-level (72,000 square foot) Nordstrom, NORDSTROM MALL was dedicated on March 1, 1980. The shopping facility encompassed approximately 155,000 leasable square feet and contained over forty stores and services. These included Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, Casual Corner, Marilyn's Hallmark, Peck & Peck, Nobby Shops, Waldenbooks and The Chalet Restaurant.

The adjacent Penney's store was connected with NORDSTROM MALL, via a second level Skybridge over Liberty Street, in November 1984.

By April 1986, all tenants in SALEM PLAZA had either closed outright or relocated into NORDSTROM MALL. A major renovation of SALEM PLAZA began. During the 15 million dollar project, a second level was added to the structure. Moreover, a 2-level (80,000 square foot) Mervyn's and 4-level (720-space) Marion Parkade were built.

The 160,000 square foot complex, known as SALEM CENTRE, was dedicated on July 17, 1987. It housed the 9-bay Food Centre Food Court and incorporated the adjacent Meier & Frank department store. During construction, three additional Skybridges had been built. These connected the new complex with Meier & Frank, the Marion Parkade and NORDSTROM MALL.

As a facet of the renovation, the new retail complex and adjacent NORDSTROM MALL became one entity. SALEM CENTRE encompassed approximately 600,000 leasable square feet and contained eighty stores and services.

SALEM CENTRE had only one regional-class competitor in its trade area. The 571,300 square foot LANCASTER MALL {2.2 miles east, in Salem} had opened in 1971.

The Larry Moyer Salem Centre Movieland theater was built on the city block north of Meier & Frank. The 7-screen venue showed its first features on May 11, 1989. It completed the basic footprint of SALEM CENTRE, which now covered 15.7 acres.

Chicago-based General Growth Properties acquired SALEM CENTRE in December 1997. They altered the spelling of the shopping venue's name in 2004; SALEM CENTRE became SALEM CENTER.

Meier & Frank became the first rebranded anchor store at the complex. It was converted to a Macy's on September 9, 2006. Mervyn's shuttered their store in February 2007. Wisconsin-based Kohl's took over the space on October 3rd of the same year. In November 2009, the cinema, which had been operating as a Regal venue, re-opened at the Cinnebare Salem 7.

The shopping hub was sold in November 2012. Atlanta's Jones Lang LaSalle brokered the transaction and currently manages and leases the property for its present proprietor, the Obert Family Limited Partnership.

A face lift renovation of SALEM CENTER commenced in 2012. This project installed new flooring, interior decor, lighting and soft seating areas. Half of the First Level of the old SALEM CENTRE (the north mall block) was gutted and rebuilt into a 1-level (29,500 square foot) Ross Dress For Less. This store opened for business on July 20, 2013.


The Statesman Journal / Robert West / Comment posted by Peter Brady
"Salem Tomorrow Report" / Gertenrich, James, Silkey and Swaim / April 1984 (Salem Public Library Photographic Collections) (General Growth Properties)
Marion County, Oregon Tax Assessor Website


The photographs from The Salem, Oregon Public Library Photographic Collection / Statesman Journal illustrate a key moment in the mall's history that is described in the article. The images are not replaceable with free-use or public-domain images. The use of the images does not limit the copyright owners' rights to distribute the images in any way. The images are being used for non-profit, informational purposes only and their use is not believed to detract from the original images in any way.