VALLEY RIVER CENTER
Valley River Way and Valley River Drive
Eugene, Oregon

Plans for a Greater Eugene shopping mall were first announced in June 1964. The prospective regional-class complex was to occupy a 64 acre tract, located .9 mile northwest of the center city. Construction would not begin until several years later.

Meanwhile, the first stores in OAKWAY MALL opened for business. This community-class retail and office complex, dedicated in late 1967, was located 1.3 miles east of the prospective regional mall site.

Work commenced on the VALLEY RIVER CENTER project on June 24, 1968. The shopping facility was designed by Seattle's John Graham, Junior and developed by Eugene's Wayne H. Shields and Portland's H.A. Andersen.

An official dedication was held August 4, 1969. The 16 million dollar mall, encompassing 662,400 leasable square feet, opened as the largest fully-enclosed shopping center in the state. It housed a single level of retail, with some stores having basements. There was also a partial third level, which contained office spaces.

The original anchors of VALLEY RIVER CENTER were a 2-level (181,100 square foot), Portland-based Meier & Frank; dedicated during the mall's August 1969 grand opening. A 2-level (206,300 square foot) J. C. Penney began business January 7, 1970.

Sixty stores and services were in business by mid-1970. These included Anita Shops ladies' wear, Fabric House, Hardy Shoes, Kaufman Brothers, Petrie's ladies' wear, Nobby Shops ladies' wear and the Junction House Restaurant. San Francisco-based Roos-Atkins also operated a 1-level (33,500 square foot) men's wear store.

Roos-Atkins was short-lived and had been shuttered by 1975. A section of the vacated store re-opened as a 1-level (18,000 square foot), Eugene-based Troutman's Emporium. In 1984, "The Emporium" expanded into Upper level space, becoming a 45,000 square foot store.

Meanwhile, a 7 million dollar West Wing expansion got underway in 1974 . Its first phase consisted of a block of twelve inline stores; these being dedicated in November 1974. During the second phase, a 1-level (106,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward, was built. It opened on March 12, 1975.

Phase three added a 2-level (52,000 square foot), Portland-based Lipmans, which was built on the east side of the existing mall. This junior anchor-sized store debuted August 4, 1975. With its completion, VALLEY RIVER CENTER encompassed approximately 880,400 leasable square feet.

In February 1974, WASHINGTON SQUARE had been officially dedicated in the southwestern environs of Portland. It spanned over 1 million leasable square feet, making it the largest interior mall in the Beaver State.

A game of merchandising musical chairs played out at VALLEY RIVER CENTER, with the Lipman's store being rebranded five times over a 27-year period. The first nameplate change transpired in 1979, when Lipmans morphed into a Seattle-based Frederick & Nelson. In August 1987, Frederick & Nelson was rebannered as a Spokane-based The Crescent.

In July 1988, Bellevue, Washington-based Lamonts rebranded The Crescent. Lamonts lasted until March 1996. In the spring of 1997, California's Copeland's Sports opened their store. This was in business until November 2006, when Colorado's Sports Authority assumed the space.

VALLEY RIVER CENTER faced a formidable competitor with the 1990 dedication of GATEWAY MALL {2.8 miles northeast, in Springfield}. As a keeping up measure, a Northwest Wing was built at VALLEY RIVER CENTER.

Anchored by a 2-level (124,000 square foot), Seattle-based The Bon Marche, the expansion included approximately twelve inline stores. It was officially dedicated August 1, 1990. The mall now housed 1,044,400 leasable square feet and contained one hundred and two store spaces.

A 2 million dollar face lift was done between August 2003 and May 2004. The mall's interior was redecorated and the east and west facades updated with new paint and mall entries.

Anchor rebrandings continued with the conversion of The Bon Marche to Bon-Macy's, on August 1, 2003. The store became a full fledged Macy's on March 6, 2005. On May 6, 2006, Macy's shuttered their VALLEY RIVER CENTER store. It re-opened, on May 9, in the Meier & Frank spot. The old "Bon-Macy's" was leased to Fresno-based Gottschalks, who opened their store September 5, 2006.

Montgomery Ward had went dark in March 2001. Their building sat vacant until being bulldozed in 2005. It was replaced by the Regal Valley River Center Stadium 15, which held its grand opening March 5, 2007.

In February 2005, the owners of the mall, the Brit-based Grosvenor ["grohv-nir"] Group, Limited, hired the Santa Monica-based Macerich Company to manage the property. In February 2006, Macerich bought the shopping complex outright.

The most recent changes at VALLEY RIVER CENTER involve the shutterings of Gottschalks (in January 2009) and Sports Authority (in July 2016). The Sports Authority space has been leased, on a temporary basis, as Spirit Halloween.

Sources:

The Eugene Register-Guard
www.macerich.com
Lane County, Oregon tax assessor website
"Valley River Center" article on Wikipedia
www.cinematreasures.org