Retail Exploration: CityTarget Portland

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CityTarget Portland “puts a bird on it“… Clever or cliche?

With the opening of CityTarget in downtown Portland last week, I was anxious to see how the new urban concept store would be different from the suburban Targets I’m familiar with. Located in major metro areas like New York City, L.A., Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., CityTargets are significantly smaller than their suburban counterparts and cater to the thousands of people who live and work in urban city centers. Portland’s new 89,000 square foot store occupies an entire city block in a renovated building called the Galleria, which was originally constructed in the 1900s for the Olds & King department store.

The (re)development of downtown areas has always fascinated me because of its implications for tourism, gentrification, commerce and local residents (especially different socioeconomic groups), the blending of cultural and architectural history and modernity, the symbiotic relationship (mutualism? parasitism?) between big-box stores and independent retailers, and its impact on city identity. In the U.S., downtown areas have a history of experiencing waves of developmental growth and loss, which most notably includes a decline in population during the post-WWII era of suburban expansion, white flight, declining economic influence of the central business district, and a proliferating car culture. They were all but abandoned by businesses and residents for much of the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t until economic revitalization efforts in 1990s/2000s revived into viable and desirable places to live and do business and popular destinations for tourists.

Here are some photos of the new store from my quick walk-through.

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Downtown Portland’s CityTarget takes up the 10th Avenue side of the block at Alder Street.

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Not surprisingly, the Target logo is everywhere. This big window panel reminds me of a giant Godzilla eye peering into a building.

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A large indoor Starbucks cafe takes up a big part of the building’s main floor. As of this post, there are at least 20 Starbucks in the downtown area.

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The street-facing window murals depict many familiar Portland-area symbols, including community gardens, coffee, mountains, flowers, bridges, and all-around weirdness.

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More symbols: The St. Johns Bridge, the Willamette River, a dude with a beard, rainbows, and an eyeball riding a bike (of course!)

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At first glance, CityTarget seems to have a pretty similar selection to its suburban counterparts, just less of it. Must have been fun doing the market research for this place!

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Complying with the city-wide plastic bag ban… The language on this sign is slightly inaccurate considering that the ban was in place well before the store opened (the sign probably came from existing stock used at other stores in cities with similar bans).

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An abundance of compact shopping carts, though I can’t quite imagine all of these getting used at once. I wonder about the shopping cart practices of people downtown. Will they fill them up? Will they leave them inside the building once they’re done shopping?

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Not sure if this “Grab and Go” messaging is for City Target stores only, but it sure does seem appropriate.

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Not surprised to see that Target’s jumped on the conscious consumption bandwagon… There’s something a bit odd about stating that a pillow can feed any number of individuals. Maybe I’m too literal? Or maybe I’m just skeptical.

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For lack of space, the product displays were more compact. These larger items make me wonder about people purchasing products that are too large to carry or fit into a cart. How do they get them home? How many people visiting this store arrive by car, bike, mass transit, on foot? How does this affect what they buy and what Target decides to stock?
Will people drive downtown to Target (and pay to park) if it’s closer than driving to one in the suburbs?

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A tight fit.

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A second-story view of the largest food cart pod in Portland (and apparently the largest one in the U.S.), which is located across the street.

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A new contender in downtown shopping bag advertising.

For more reading on the new CityTarget:

“Why Target is Coming to Downtown Portland” – a well-written history of downtown Portland’s retail development ups and downs by Portland Monthly

“Ribbon cut, CityTarget opens” – an account of the July 23rd, 2013 CityTarget ribbon cutting from KOIN


  1. This is much like my Target experience in downtown Minneapolis. I was particularly intrigued that at one skyway entrance of the Target complex, one needed to go through a complete security screening to enter their corporate offices. Quite a complex for the downtown retail district.

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