The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

March 4, 2009

Totem Lake Mall May Be For Sale

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:21 pm

It’s been a while since there’s been anything to report on the Totem Lake Mall.  Since a new set of site plans was posted in June of last year, nothing else of note has happened besides the closing of the Old Country Buffet in the lower mall.  Initially there was some speculation that this was in preparation for upcoming demolition in preparation for the redevelopment, but it was disclosed in comments tha the closing was the result of consolidation on the part of Old Country Buffet’s parent company.  Since then, there has been no activity or change at the Totem Lake Mall property, and if the news coming out today is any indication, it may yet be a while before we see anything happening here.

The Kirkland Reporter is now reporting that although nothing has officially been announced yet, the mall’s current owner is quietly putting the mall up for sale.  Over the past year, DDR (the owner of the Totem Lake Mall) has seen its stock price decline by 95% as the commercial real estate market has been hit particularly hard by the recession, and has begun selling off a number of their properties.  The Totem Lake Mall was purchased  by Coventry/DDR for $37 million back in 2003, and they made plans for a $126 million redevelopment of the property.  Since early 2006, there has been little to no activity with regards to the redevelopment project, and now it seems that the city of Kirkland has basically written off the project, and is now seeking to move funds that had been set aside for road improvements from Totem Lake Mall to the redevelopment of Parkplace in downtown Kirkland (which still seems to be on track,  endless appeals from downtown Kirkland’s resident NIMBY population notwithstanding.)

Based on the article, it sounds like there has been talk of the property being for sale for some time now, but it has not yet been formally put up on the market.  It is not yet known how much the property would actually sell for at this point (I’m going to guess that it probably won’t be anywhere near the $37 million DDR originally paid for it,) but given the location of the property, I’m sure that there’s probably someone out there who might be interested in it.  The problem is that in this economic environment, who is going to have the money to spend on it? 

I’ll continue to keep an eye on the situation, and if anything actually happens here anytime in the near future (I’m not holding my breath,) I’ll be sure to report it.

November 10, 2008

Whither Totem Lake Mall?

Filed under: History, Kirkland, shopping, Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 4:51 pm

In order to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of the Totem Lake Mall in Kirkland, Rob Butcher of has asked me to put together an article for that site about the mall, its history and its future.  The resulting article has now been posted in three parts over at that site.  This article provides a (somewhat) brief summary of the current state of the mall, its history, and the apparently stalled redevelopment plans to bring the mall back to life.  Hopefully this will help the people who live near this mall to have a better understanding of what is and isn’t going on over there right now, and to take a part in shaping the future of Totem Lake.  Links to these articles can be found below:

The Colorful Past and Unwritten Future of Kirkland’s Totem Lake Mall:

September 15, 2008

Help Identify This Labelscar at Totem Lake

Filed under: Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:22 am

I’ve been doing a bit of digging through my photo backlog, and I found this one that I meant to post earlier, but forgot about somewhere along the line.  This is a labelscar which I found on the front (the side facing the street) of the building at Totem Lake Mall which currently houses the Trader Joes store.  I can’t really make this out, but I figure someone out there might recognize it.  Based on my research, it appears that this particular building previously housed a General Tire center and an indoor miniature golf course (there’s a bit of an odd combination) when the upper mall first opened, and later on I seem to recall seeing something about this becoming a Les Schwab tire center, but I can’t be certain of that (There’s a Les Schwab a few blocks away in the Totem Lake neighborhood which looks to be a lot more recent than this.)  These look like they could have been garage entrances at one point that later got walled over.  There’s also the enigmatic Turbo Tubes waterslides that I have seen multiple people write about in the comments, but have yet to hear of or see anything about those besides the fact that they existed. 

I’ve been meaning to put together a post on some of the stuff I’ve found on the upper mall so far, but I think I need to go back and get some more stuff off the microfilm before doing so.  In the meantime, anyone care to shed some light on this?

August 8, 2008

In Defense of the Traditional Shopping Mall – Part 1: The Reports of the Mall’s Death are Greaty Exaggerated

Filed under: Culture, Malls, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:57 pm

Over the past couple of days, I have noted that a significant number of visitors have arrived at this site from an article posted over at WorldChanging Seattle that was linked by BoingBoing.  As seems to be the case withmost of the incoming links to this site, the article deals with the decline of the traditional enclosed shopping mall, and the open-air “Town Center” type developments that are taking their place.  The article specifically touches on a few subjects (from something of an Urbanist, and to a lesser extent environmentalist perspective) that I have had sitting on my “to do” list for a while now, and there are some topics in the article that I would like to comment on.

The article over at WorldChanging (an activity that generally falls well outside of the scope of this particular website) cites a number of local malls as examples, but focuses primarily on Factoria and its upcoming redevelopment.  The overall tone of the article seems to suggest that the area’s shopping malls are on a rapid descent toward oblivion, which just isn’t the case.   The article’s claims that the malls in the area are headed down the proverbial tubes is greatly exaggerated, and even though the mixed use “town center” paradigm that the article discusses is becoming increasingly popular in the area’s shopping centers, the Seattle area’s traditional malls aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  In the article below, I’ll explain why this is the case.  Since this seems to be turning out to be far longer than I originally anticipated, I will split this into several parts.  The next part will discuss some of what makes malls go into decline, and a third part will discuss some of the goals of the Urbanists with regards to “Town Center” type developments, and explain why things may not work out there quite the way that they would like them to. 


August 5, 2008

Totem Lake Redevelopment Update: A Slight Change of Plans

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:37 am


Although it appears that the beginning of major construction work over at Factoria Mall is imminent, things continue to be quiet over at Totem Lake Mall a few miles to the North.  The comments on some of the previous posts on the Totem Lake Redevelopment have hinted at some of what the newly redeveloped property will have to offer and a possible timeframe calling for construction to begin later this year, but for the most part, solid information has been all but nonexistent for some time now.  The City of Kirkland’s website has no new information, and a building permit search still shows the permits for this project in “pending” status. 

That said, it appears that ever so slowly, progress continues on the design of the redeveloped shopping center, and the site plan found on DDR’s webpage for the mall has recently been updated once again.  This new site plan, has a date of June 11th 2008, and although much of the prior site plan discussed here from February remains intact, there are also some rather significant changes, particularly in the secondary anchor portion of the upper mall.  Unfortunately I forgot to save a copy of the PDF file for the previous site plan before it disappeared, but I did print off a copy, and the previous post has images that cover most of the details, so I do have enough info to make a comparison.  After the jump, a look at the new site plan, and some of the changes it entails.


May 6, 2008

Signs of Life at Totem Lake – A New Redevelopment Site Plan

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:20 pm

Update 8/5/08:  A new site plan was recently posted on DDR’s site replacing this one, so much of the information in this post is now outdated.  See the new post with information on the updated site plan here.

It’s been more than two years now since we’ve heard much of anything regarding the proposed redevelopment at Totem Lake Mall.  The last time the City of Kirkland website for the mall redevelopment was updated was back in early 2006, and nothing new has been submitted to the city since that time.  This has led some people (myself included) to wonder if the Totem Lake Mall redevelopment had stalled out.  Finally after a long wait, there are signs of life on the Totem Lake Mall redevelopment project, with a new site plan posted at DDR’s webpage for the mall.  The site plan (in PDF format) can be found here.  I cannot be entirely certain of when this new site plan was actually published to the DDR website, but the plan itself bears a date of February 28th, 2008 on it, which makes it a lot newer than any of the existing information we have on this project.  Quite a bit has changed compared to what was presented to the City of Kirkland design review board in 2006 (the only other publicly available information on the redevelopment that I am aware of right now.)  After the jump,  a look at the site plan, and some of the clues it might hold to what the new Totem Lake Mall might look like.


April 9, 2008

Totem Lake Mall Research Update – A Map of the Lower Mall from 1973

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:50 am


First of all, I’d like to welcome the influx of visitors that has arrived at my original profile of the Totem Lake Mall via Although I am a transplant to this area, and have only been around here for about 13 1/2 years, I have stil seen much of this particular mall’s decline to its current state.  In order to show what it was like in better days, I have undertaken a project to document some of its early history.  So far, much of my information has come from contemporary newspapers from 1973 and 1974 (especially the East Side Journal,) although I have also found out a number of things from comments made to the original post.  Previously, I put together a brief info dump on some of the things that I have been able to determine so far, but since then I have continued to do more research an have been able to fill in some of the blanks, and I think I’ve got a mostly complete picture of what was in the lower mall when it opened.  After the jump, a closer look at what stores were in (and around) the lower mall in 1973, when it opened.


March 10, 2008

Totem Lake Mall: An Update and Info Dump

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:28 pm

 Update:  Yeah, it’s still empty.  The fly-by-night ink store in the lower mall shut down and it looks like a small closeout store is currently occupying the former Grab Bag location for the time being, but there’s not much to report.  The City of Kirkland hasn’t reported anything  new with regards to the redevelopment plans, and the DDR webpage for the mall hasn’t even bothered to update to reflect the closing of the CompUSA store more than a year ago. 

With that out of the way, I would like to go ahead and give a quick summary of what I have been able to learn so far with regards to the history of this mall.  When I originally wrote my Totem Lake Mall profile, just about all I had to work with was a mostly empty mall sitting in the middle of Kirkland and a few random facts from a Wikipedia article.  Since I wrote that post, it has become one of the more popular ones on my Blog, since information on this mall seems to be rather scarce on the Web.  Since then, I have begun doing some research into the mall and its history in order to show the mall in better days, and give some more insight into how the property has reached its present state.  I intend to do the same with the other malls in the area (I am trying to collect info on the history of Crossroads now, although I haven’t found a lot there yet.  Factoria Mall and Bellevue Square will come later.)  Most of what I have found so far has come from some (admittedly brief) searching in microfilm archives from the East Side Journal, which was a weekly newspaper based out of Kirkland at the time.  The summary can be found after the jump.


September 2, 2007

Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls, shopping, Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:51 am

Totem Lake Malls Sign

Update 3/4/09: The Kirk land Reporter has reported that DDR is in the process of quietly putting the Totem Lake Mall property up for sale, which presumably means that whatever redevelopment plans might have been made for this mall are unlikely to ever come to fruition, at least in their current form.  You can find a few more details on at this post.

For those of you arriving here from, you might also be interested in an article that I have written over at describing summarizing the current situation here, as well as what I know about the history and potential future of this mall.  Links to the three part article can be found here.

If you’re looking for something slightly less depressing to read about, check out the first part of a 4-part series of posts on Crossroads Mall in Bellevue, a small mall which was brought back from the brink of failure in the mid Eighties to be transformed into what is now a thriving neighborhood mall and a popular gathering place for the community.

Also be sure to check out the most recent post on my research into the history of this mall here.

One of the things you learn from spending time on the Internet is that no matter how obscure a hobby you engage in might be, there’s a good chance you’ll find a number of other people with similar interests.  For some reason, I’ve always had an interest in malls, not so much because I like shopping, but because I find it interesting to watch them over time and see how things change.  Some malls thrive, while others decline, and end up abandoned.  There are whole websites (and blogs) devoted to documenting some of these declining and defunct malls.  Over the course of the next few months, I intend to make a series of posts about some of the region’s malls, from those that are thriving to those that are failing.

One such mall is the Totem Lake Mall in Kirkland.  Originally built in 1973, The mall is split down the middle by a road, separating it into two halves (hence the name “Totem Lake Malls” as seen on the signs.)  The mall has faced a long, slow decline since the late 1990s, accelerated by the recent loss of three of its major anchor stores, leaving most of the enclosed mall portion of the property vacant.   The owner of the mall has submitted preliminary plans to the City of Kirkland for a major redevelopment of the property, although no new documents have been submitted since last January.  These plans seem to indicate that a majority of the existing property will be demolished and rebuilt.  Although (as you will see) this is badly needed,  After the jump, a tour of the desolation that is the Totem Lake Mall,


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