Port Plaza Mall/Washington Commons; Green Bay, Wisconsin

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

With a population of just over 100,000 residents, Green Bay is Wisconsin’s third largest city and the largest of the string of cities collectively called the Fox Cities in the northeastern part of the state.  Interestingly, Green Bay is one of the oldest continuously settled places in the United States, having been established as a French trading post in 1634.  Today, however, Green Bay is known primarily for its homegrown football team and economy of paper mills and other manufacturing industries.  However, the economy is far from robust, and the city is one of a few in Wisconsin losing population in recent years due to manufacturing cutbacks and negative job growth as many of the city’s historic industries invest elsewhere in cheaper labor and materials.  However, the Green Bay metropolitan area has grown by about 6 percent since 2000.

Green Bay’s retail scene has evolved quite a bit since its early days as a trading post nearly 400 years ago.  Unlike southern Wisconsin, Green Bay and the Fox Cities got on the super-regional mall-building train relatively late.  One of the first large-scale regional developments was planned to simultaneously reinvigorate downtown Green Bay from its loss of retailers to suburban strips in the 1970s, and also to give the area a super-regional multi-anchor mall.  Port Plaza Mall opened ceremoniously in 1977 featuring anchor stores H.C. Prange, which predated the mall by 50 years, and JCPenney, as well as about 100 smaller stores under one roof in the middle of downtown Green Bay.  Four years later in 1981 Boston Store opened as well as a small food court. 

 Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

The 1980s were mostly kind to Port Plaza Mall, as it retained immense popularity despite other competition being constructed nearby.  Most notably were the large malls Bay Park Square in Ashwaubenon, a suburb of Green Bay, and Fox River Mall, located in Appleton about 30 minutes away.  Both Bay Park Square and Fox River Mall opened as large-scale regional developments and were an immediate threat to Port Plaza’s customer base, opening in 1980 and 1984, respectively.  Fox River Mall, being both the most centrally located center for all of northeastern Wisconsin as well as being located in one of the most economically prosperous areas, has enjoyed the most success to date.  It has attracted a sea of boxes and category killers to surround it, and is a retail destination for all of northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan.  As an immediate response to this competition, Port Plaza Mall embarked upon a large scale renovation in 1988

As the 1990s began, Port Plaza still held its own and remained a destinational offering anchoring downtown Green Bay.  In 1992, anchor store Prange’s became Younkers as the former chain was purchased by the latter, but didn’t really affect much.  More numerous changes were afoot by the end of the decade, as problems emerged at Port Plaza Mall.  It seemed as though shoppers were no longer willing to go downtown and deal with parking, and much preferred shopping at Bay Park Square, which was renovated about this time, or to travel to Appleton for all the offerings there. 

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WIIn 2000, the Boston Store closed and so did numerous other national chain retailers, signaling a red flag for the mall’s prosperity and the beginning of a downward spiral.  In 2001 and 2002, the mall was sold and a few attempts were made to return it to glory.  First, the mall was renamed to Washington Commons, to reflect the new owners’ plans to integrate ‘other’ uses into the mall, like offices.  McDonald’s and Osco also jumped ship about this time, and the food court was moved to near center court while the old food court was demolished so Washington Street could be reconnected through the mall as it was before the mall opened.  In 2004, another blow came to the mall as Younkers closed, relocating to a vacant spot at Bay Park Square.  In 2005, the Green Bay Childrens Museum left the mall, and all the while more and more stores left like Bath and Body Works.  2005 also saw the last anchor tenant, JCPenney, leave the mall in October, leaving the mall with only a handful of stores. 

In February 2006, following numerous failed attempts to repurpose at least some of the mall into office space or anything useful, owners decided to kick the remaining tenants out and close the mall permanently.  They sort of had to do this, because the mall was being foreclosed upon by the bank it was financed with, and the electricity would be shut off after February and it’s mighty cold in Wisconsin about this time.  Anyway, the mall closed, but not before yours truly paid it a visit on the last day it was open.  These pictures were taken February 26, 2006. 

In Summer 2007, the Pranges/Younkers building was demolished to make way for new developments at the mall, which could include a small lifestyle/retail portion and trendy condos or something; you know the drill by now.  Take a look at the pictures and feel free to leave us your own comments and experiences at Port Plaza Mall/Washington Commons in Green Bay. 

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI Port Plaza Mall Washington Commons in Green Bay, WI

 

60 Responses to “Port Plaza Mall/Washington Commons; Green Bay, Wisconsin”

  1. It’s sad to lose another mall. But honestly I don’t see a good reason to have a mall in a downtown area in the first place. Downtowns should be more unique with boutiques and local services than empty with a hulking mall with chains in it next door (though I don’t know if downtown Green Bay prospered with the mall and without). Anyway I guess I’m saying that malls are better suited in suburbs away from downtowns of any kind.

    BTW whose that guy in the pictures, is that you PrangeWay?

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    Mel Reply:

    @danroman, I grew up in Green Bay and spent the first 28 years of my life there. I remember downtown before Port Plaza, which was built in 1977. They tore down many wonderful buldings to put that monstrosity downtown, which even at my young age (9) made me sad. Like most downtowns in our country I don’t know if it’ll ever regain it’s former glory. Since you wrote almost 7 years ago, many things have happened to this site – namely, the cheese giant Schreiber bought the land and made it their headquarters – a HUGE boost for Green Bay’s downtown! :) http://www.postcrescent.com/story/money/2014/06/30/schreiber-foods-shows-new-green-bay-headquarters/11793351/

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    Mel Reply:

    ITS former glory! Sorry for the typo. :)

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    vazdrae Reply:

    @danroman, I somewhat disagree, and somewhat agree with that. It depends on the city really. I live in Madison, WI currently, on the west side. Which has the large doing well mall in the suburbs and la-de da. However I work downtown and enjoy always being downtown and have considered moving to downtown. If that were the case Id just sell my car. And I would be doing what alot of people in downtown Madison are, without cars. And without cars getting to the malls takes a good couple of hours by bus. Not appealing to everyone. So shopping at the mall would be difficult. So, Id see an appeal for a mall in downtown Madison here, simply because so many residents and students don’t have cars. There is some outdoor shops along State St. like Urban Outfitters, Gap, GameStop, and local chains, but nothing too big. I think a large downtown mall would do good here. Especially with a food court and a movie theater (no movie theater down here either really, besides maybe in the Student Union).

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  2. No, there is a picture somewhere on here with Prangeway’s face reflected on the car mirror.

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  3. Thank goodness I visited the mall only once, back in 1991. At that time, the place was still fully occupied.

    I’ve delved back into news archives going back to the mid 1970s when the mall was planned out and they decided to do the same thing Park Plaza (in Oshkosh) and what the Grand Avenue in Milwaukee would do a few years later…..all in a vain attempt to ‘revitalize’ their (then) struggling downtown business districts. The city residents were wholly against the idae, but you know how city planners were back in those days…”We NEED a mall downtown. Give us a mall!”

    Well they got one, and now they’ve wound up with a migrane-inducing mess, 31 years later.

    Sure, it worked for the first decade or two for all three malls, but eventually they all succumbed to the very malls on the ourtskirts of town that would have done in the downtown sectors anyhow.

    Now the city has this white elephant of a building to deal with. This is a great opportunity for them to tear down, restore the original street grid, and put up some new buildings to hopefully bring new “local” business and the like back downtown.

    To me, it seems the Green Bay metro area never really was kind to enclosed malls. They’ve always been sort of a ‘strip mall’ town….tons of these dot the landscapes along S. Oneida St, along W. Lombardi Ave, and then northwards on Military and west on Mason St. (The city’s oldest planned shopping center, Green Bay Plaza sits at this corner, anchored by a rather dated-looking (on the outside) Sears. Then to a lesser extent there’s E. Mason, cumulating with the up-and-down again East Town Mall (est. 1981).

    Bay Park, now the region’s dominant mall, for many years was only as big as my hometown Forest Mall (Fond Du Lac WI) until they nabbed a Kohls and 6-10 new shops in the late 1980s, a food court and Elder Beerman (now Younker’s Furniture Store) in the mid 1990s, then a new Younkers (to replace the downtown store) and an expansion of 20 new shops in 2004. Even with all the evolution It still can’t seem to hold its own against Fox River Mall (FRM nabs all the ‘A-list’, upscale tenants first), yet it still is popular with locals, including those who wish not to drive down to Appleton’s behemoth complex.

    As for Port Plaza, when I went there, I recall a still-thriving center of activity. It had all the typical chains of the late 1970s still intact for the most part…..lots of outdated storefronts and the like. Orange Julius, Thom McAn, LImited, B.Dalton’s Books, Gap, Merry Go Round, and many many others. The neon and chrome accents and new tiling were laid down in the 1988 renovation, but that was about the extent of any updates (sans the failed attempt of a ‘new’ food court visible in the images).

    The thing that creeps me about any downtown mall are the parking decks. This one’s especially did so. On the outside of the mall’s rear parking deck, it just looks very old and outdated, older than the mall itself.

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  4. the real problem with downtown mall in general is the pay to park thing. people dont want to pay or even have to buy something to get free or reduced parking. i remember going to the grand ave in milwaukee and buying something at say boston store just to go to regency mall and return it so i didnt have to pay for the parking. it was just to much hasle for most prople and thay stoped going.

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  5. great skin!

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  6. So that’s why I couldn’t figure out where the other mall in Green Bay was! It all makes sense now. Thanks PrangeWay for clearing this up!

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  7. I was in Green Bay last summer for a couple of days but spent a fair bit of time at Lambeau. Did JCPenney move from downtown to a stand-alone store in Ashwaubenon?

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  8. That’s right. Penneys decided to bail downtown for their new store adjacent to Bay Park Square.

    Their Port Plaza store was more than likely a replacement for an older store downtown..

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  9. I used to visit this mall with my family back in the 1990s when the mall was still operating. I remember the neon lights, the foliage, the big fountain in the center court, the visit with Santa Claus during the Christmas shopping season. At that time, all three shopping malls coexisted, Bay Park Square, and East Town being the other two in the area. The places I remember shopping with my family at Port Plaza Mall include McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Kay Bee Toys, Osco Drug, and countless other stores.

    I searched all over the internet and found these websites and pictures featuring the mall:

    Mayor Atkinson, construction, 1975:

    http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/geninfo/mayors_past/mayor_atkinson_o.html

    Mayor Michael Monfils at Port Plaza’s grand opening, 1977

    http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/geninfo/mayors_past/mayor_monfils_o.html

    Washington Commons in 2004:

    http://www.uwgb.edu/hutchr/washington_commons_2004.htm

    The mall itself was the first successful urban renewal project in Green Bay in the late 1970s and early 1980s that backfired in the early 21st century when Boston Store closed its Green Bay location in 2000 leaving only a JCPenney and Younkers as anchor tenants. When the mall was renamed Washington Commons, many things changed. The tiny food court/Washington St. cul de sac dissappears only to be replaced with a newly reconnected Washington Street with skywalk (now demolished), and a newly tiled interior first floor walkway and food court in the center court. The fountain is gone. The mall was repurposed as a mixed-use facility.

    I went to this mall in 2005, and I visited Wild Air! Play Zone where I got meet my favorite cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants in person. I still have the snapshots from that day, from a disposale Kodak camera, but don’t have the items necessary to upload the pictures. The Boston Store building is still there, but it is renovated, and is currently home to Bay Lake Bank, APAC Customer Services, and Vicenzi’s Bar.

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    Justin Hill (Sponge1987/ShopKoFan) Reply:

    @Justin Hill, I found some more pictures of Port Plaza Mall before 1988:

    Main Street bridge view of the exterior, featuring the Ramada Inn (now Days Inn) and the H.C. Prange Co. anchor with the skywalk connecting to the mall over Washington street:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/3949285976/in/photostream/

    Center court during a volleyball match (I love the placement of the painted “port plaza” sign on the escalator):
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/3948624123/in/photostream/

    The clock tower:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/3948695105/

    JCPenney interior:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/3949474268/in/photostream/

    All pictures are scanned from “Green Bay: A Pictorial History”

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  10. the blond guy in the photos is prangeway from many years ago.

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  11. I have lived in Wisconsin for my entire life and have witnessed the downfall of many malls myself. It’s really sad. Every time it happens it reminds me of George A Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” (the old one). SouthRidge Mall in Greefield, Wisconsin is next. It is not as outdated as this one, but it sure is turning quick. Nice pictures.
    Joe

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  12. joe ithink you are wrong southridge has its own customer base the problem there is the customer is cheep and will not suport high end stores that is why the mall alwas seems like its behind the others i think if papst farm becomes reality its brookfield that will realy go and go fast it is the boringist and smallist in the milwaukee area it will not be able to weather a hit from the west it already plays second to mayfair on its east

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  13. Southridge is faltering in part because under The Mills Co. ownership, the owners did nothing to promote the mall to potential retailers.

    Then again, they didn’t have the cash to do anything. They bought up too many properties in the early ’00s, and that, coupled with the struggles their outlet ‘mega malls’ have been dealing with the past few years (vacanies and such), it put them in the red.

    Simon took the bait when MIlls went up for sale, so now they have to deal with Southridge along with all the other former Mills-owned malls.

    With the mall’s ownership turnover history, I’m suprised it’s even still going today.

    1970-mid/mid 1980s: Kohl family / Taubman
    The mall then had several changes in ownership between 1988-1996….at least two. Then…..
    Mid 1990s-2004: Blackstone Realty Group / Urban Retail (Leasing/Mgmt)
    2004-2007: The MIlls Corp
    2007-present: Simon

    Greendale Village officials are pushing for Simon to do something with the place and ‘el-pronto’. Being the village has no ‘downtown’ to speak of, (Southridge and the 76th St South corridor is their ‘downtown’ in a sense), rest assured, the village isn’t about to let that mall whither away just yet. They (the village) outright bought out the former Younkers (ex: Pranges

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  14. Southridge is faltering in part because under The Mills Co. ownership, the owners did nothing to promote the mall to potential retailers.

    Then again, they didn’t have the cash to do anything. They bought up too many properties in the early ’00s, and that, coupled with the struggles their outlet ‘mega malls’ have been dealing with the past few years (vacanies and such), it put them in the red.

    Simon took the bait when MIlls went up for sale, so now they have to deal with Southridge along with all the other former Mills-owned malls.

    With the mall’s ownership turnover history, I’m suprised it’s even still going today.

    1970-mid/mid 1980s: Kohl family / Taubman
    The mall then had several changes in ownership between 1988-1996….at least two. Then…..
    Mid 1990s-2004: Blackstone Realty Group / Urban Retail (Leasing/Mgmt)
    2004-2007: The MIlls Corp
    2007-present: Simon

    Greendale Village officials are pushing for Simon to do something with the place and ‘el-pronto’. Being the village has no ‘downtown’ to speak of, (Southridge and the 76th St South corridor is their ‘downtown’ in a sense), rest assured, the village isn’t about to let that mall whither away just yet. They (the village) outright bought out the former Younkers (ex: Pranges / Fields / Gimbles box) from another owner who was just sitting on it, not willing to fill the space however they could, and sold it off to another owner who eventually got a Steve & Barrys to take up the first floor, a Linens & Things / World Market in half of the second floor.

    Southridge’s hanging in there, but needs better utilization of vacant space, and a (get ready for it….you’ll groan)…outdoor ‘lifestyle’ component to lure in the upper-tier stores that refuse to locate in enclosed malls.

    When I’m in Milwaukee, I ‘always’ go to Southridge. It has the most familiar places I know and go to. I can’t stand Mayfair or Brookfield Square, and Bayshore is a bit out of my reach, cash-wise.

    Pabst Farms is not going to be enclosed. It’s going to be your typical ‘flavor of the day’ big box center now.

    Still, the boxes have killed malls before. Look what’s happening in Sheboygan. That mall (namely, Memorial Mall) is ripe for an entry here….doubt it’ll be open anymore in 5 years time, save for its anchors which still do a roaring business. I typed up an article on it for the deadmalls site, but if I can get some pics soon, I’ll reproduce it here (in a truncated form for quicker reading) and have it featured here.

    (PS: To the blog owner. Please delete my previous comment. I put some sort of character in there that wound up cutting it off. Thanks much. )

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  15. What is your source when you say “GB’s economy is far from robust” and that we’re “loosing population” etc? It is true some of the traditional industries (mills) are sliding but overall the economy hasn’t been bad at all. Also, GB is not “losing population” in fact it’s been one of the fastest growing cities in the state for many years running. Granted, much of the growth is in the suburbs (Howard, Ledgeview, Bellevue, Suamico, Ashwaubenon, etc) but all told the Green Bay Metro has been just about the fastest-growing area in the state for a long time. Might want to re-check your facts or stop making assumptions about the population & economomy. The rest about the mall was good though, nice work there.

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  16. Here are some stats to back up my comments above about the economy and population. A lot of people perceive one thing about GB but the numbers often surprise people:

    http://packerland.blogspot.com/2007/10/86th-percentile-and-growing.html

    Thanks!

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  17. I didn’t mean to strike any nerves, but here are some of the sources I used.

    http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.wi_greenbay_msa.htm
    http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/99999999/GPG0101/51017019/0/theme
    http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/mins_agd/minutes/20030902MN61.html
    http://www.census.gov indicates the city lost about 2000 residents since 2000.

    I’m going to stand by the statements I made, based on the information presented in those facts. Those figures clearly indicate things are far from robust, a bunch of jobs have gone away, and the city has lost population.

    However, what I did fail to mention is that yes, the metropolitan area has gained about 6% in population since 2000. So I’ve added that.

    Also, the purpose for the comments is exactly this. Getting a dialogue going and inserting new, and often opposing, viewpoints helps people get the bigger picture in the end.

    In all, I think Green Bay is a great place, and for the greater good of Wisconsin, where I also live, hope that it continues on a path to viability.

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  18. I uploaded some of my photos on Flickr for Port Plaza Mall / Washington Commons in Green Bay, Wisconsin from 2005. Hover your mouse over these photos for more information when viewing these photos:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2500650272/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2500648660/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2500645608/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2500643994/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499800941/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499796093/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499794581/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499823929/

    And…

    …For all you SpongeBob fans out there:

    Wild Air Play Zone’s Washington Commons interior shots featuring Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499811643/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2500639528/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499808713/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499807183/

    A picture of me and SpongeBob:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/2499805755/

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  19. Great story about Port Plaza. Thank you. It’s really a shame what happened to Port Plaza, as well as Park Plaza in Oshkosh (see my post there). I’m from Oshkosh originally and I was pleased to find Port Plaza when I moved to GB in the late 1980’s. I remember after our first child was born, we would go to the mall around the holidays and just walk for hours. My goodness…all of the ramps plus surface lots were full. One could drive around for 10-15 minutes looking for a parking spot. Younkers occupied five floors at that time, and we usually ended up at the Terrace Room on 5th floor for a light lunch. I concur with a previous poster. Empty malls always remind me of Dawn of the Dead.

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  20. I just stumbled on your pictures in a flickr stream. I then clicked a to the labelscar tab and found the write up. Nice work

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  21. I remember this mall was also connected to Embasy Suites in the 80’s and 90’s. I remember thinking how cool it was that a hotel was connected to a mall. For a treat my dad bought macidamian nuts from “buddy squirrel” on our little out of town vacation. Sad to see places like this fall completly apart.

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  22. I just heard that the City of Green Bay is going to sell the clocktower’s mechanism back to the city of Winona, Mississippi. It is unfortunate that this mall failed. I just wish that all the neon lights were lit up in these photos, like they were earlier in this decade. I used to like spending time there with family, doing some shopping at Osco and dining out at either the McDonald’s or Taco Bell on the west side of the mall in front of Younkers. That McDonald’s was a huge location, and was really busy during the day. I believe that, if the mall was in turn, sold to someone else other than Development Associates, like an outside developer, and was given a second renovation, that it would’ve survived to this day. I would picture this mall doing better in an alternate reality, if the Boston Store was replaced a year later with an IMAX theater. Unfortunately, that reality never came to be, and now the mall still lies dormant, across the street from Hotel Sierra. It is a travesty that this mall replaced a few blocks of buildings in downtown Green Bay, it is also a travesty that the mall they replaced shut down in 2006, and it is also a travesty that this mall still sits abandoned, with its most of its west wing demolished. The city of Green Bay is slow to redevelop our downtown. Russ Demille is a madman for running this mall into the ground the way he did! I can’t believe he sexually harassed some of the girls working there. If I worked there, I would call the GBPD, and have him arrested for that. Washington Commons was a bad choice for a name. The people I knew still called it Port Plaza. Washington Commons was a very unoriginal name, compared to Port Plaza Mall, which sounds a lot catchier. I really miss the fountain in the center court. The Port Plaza Mall was fun while it lasted. No trip to Bay Park Square compares to a trip to Port Plaza. I just hope East Town Mall survives, considering that it is the only alternative to Bay Park Square. It even has its own movie theater. One of the things I hope to see East Town Mall do in the future, is connect ShopKo to the rest of the mall.

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  23. Thank you, Justin, for clearing up my biggest burning question: What about the Big Clock!? I never made a trip to Port Plaza Mall that didn’t involve meeting up with someone — Mom, friends, Mall Security….– at the Big Clock.

    I never saw Port Plaza in decline (or even after renovation), so I will continue to think of it in terms of the gloriously sleazy Gold Mine arcade, 70’s-tastic wood and glass balustrades, and grease-soaked fast food at Smacks.

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  24. MONDAY, JULY 6TH – 10AM – 2PM!
    THE CORNER OF ADAMS AND MAIN!

    Anybody reading this is welcome to join me at the corner of Adams st and Main st to draw attention to saving the Port Plaza clock that’s at the Adams st entrance.

    It’s the only clock remaining – the one in the center court was sold to a businessman in California.

    We cannot save the mall itself, but we CAN save at least one artifact from it.

    MONDAY, JULY 6TH – 10AM – 2PM!
    THE CORNER OF ADAMS AND MAIN!

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  25. Great read.

    It’s sad, really, as I grew up going to that mall in the early ’90’s. It was truly a unique shopping center (numerous water fountains, glass elevator, clock tower, escalators). I remembering walking around the halls in it’s last years – I would go to the food court to get Subway for lunch. That’s about all that was left before they closed. The downtown kind of died then.

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  26. I found some new pictures of the Port Plaza Mall interior in it’s current state, taken by photographer Chad Davis:
    http://www.phixation.com/misc/portplaza/

    It’s really sad.

    The interior is decaying, the ceiling is leaking, puddles and rust stains on the terazzo floor, falling ceiling tiles, paint peeling off walls, Christmas decorations strewn across the floor of the Boston Store court and the Adams entrance. It’s becoming a victim of what I like to call “Dixie Square Syndrome.”

    I used to frequent the Claire’s and JCPenney at this mall in its final years, to find some SpongeBob SquarePants merchandise, not to mention eat at the Subway restaurant for lunch or dinner.

    I’m surprised what three years of decay can do to a mall like this.

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    hokoglowko Reply:

    @Justin Hill (Sponge1987/ShopKoFan),

    Decay and ruin really accelerate once the roof starts leaking. Has that moldy, damp smell infiltrated the mall yet? It looks pretty good now when compared to what it will look like in another couple of years. You’ll be seeing green ceiling tiles on the floor.

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    Justin Hill (Sponge1987/ShopKoFan) Reply:

    @hokoglowko, You’re right. If it is still there in the next couple years, the mall will get that way.

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    Amy Van Beek Reply:

    @Justin Hill (Sponge1987/ShopKoFan),

    Amazing but sad photos. How did this man get in to take the photos?
    I have my own take on the entire demise of Port Plaza. After reading all the comments most seem true. I think every one has a there own take on what happened. I agree fact are facts. Sometime in the future I will post my take. Having worked downtown spending time in the mall daily I am entitiled to my view. Thanks for shaing the recent photos. I am eager to share with others who miss our mall!

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  27. I went to Port Plaza for the first time in the Spring of 1981, shortly after moving to Green Bay. I remember how busy the mall was, and this was a week-day afternoon. Even though I left Green Bay a couple of years later, I still frequented the mall and everything seemed to be “business as usual.” It was around 2000 or so when I started to notice trouble (empty stores). The rest is history.
    Not to be nit picky, but I’m almost positive Boston Store opened in 1982, not 1981. After losing my job in 1982, I, along with hundreds of others, interviewed for positions in the yet-to-be-opened store.

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  28. I remember meeting people at the clock, both at it’s old location and then when they moved it to put in the fountain.

    The old Gold Mine was great, nice and dark with the cool mine style entrance. Then they remodeled and named it something else.

    And once I was over 21, I loved stopping at Diamond Dave’s or the Crockery to take a break for a few beers while Christmas shopping.

    I think my last time shopping there would have been ’98 or ’99, and it was definitely starting to thin out. It was sad. I can’t stand Bay Park Square, at least not after the remodeling. (Was it Fun N’ Games across from the theater?)

    Anyone remember the Hole In One Donuts that was there in the 80’s? Mom would never let us get any, but I always remember the sign.

    I live in MO now, so I only make one or two trips a year to GB. It’s amazing how much has changed in the 10 years I’ve been gone.

    [Reply]

    ShopKoFan Reply:

    @Thanatos,

    The arcade, known as “Gold Mine” became “Tilt.”

    The “Fun-N-Games” arcade at Bay Park was across from the theater, which was gutted in the 1990s to become a food court.

    Bay Park Square was owned by DeBartolo in the 1980s, up to the early 1990s when DeBartolo was merged with Simon Property Group.

    Ever since Port Plaza died, our downtown just wasn’t as fun as it used to be. I’m waiting, like everyone else in Green Bay, to see the mall get demolished, and new developments to take shape. I think what killed Port Plaza was the demographic shift in our area to the more affluent suburban malls, combined with the extra expense of paying for parking, and in later years, a new name. I would call the 2002-2006 era of Port Plaza the “Washington Commons Era,” Port Plaza’s worst era ever. The managers in that era of Port Plaza’s history tried sprucing up the mall with an upscale remodel, a new food court, and a newly-reconnected Washington Street, but that only made things worse when stores kept leaving a few months apart from one another. Pop-up stores like the Calendar Club kept the mall busy along with the remainder of the inline tenants during the holiday shopping season. At least they added a stage to keep the people entertained in the food court while they dined on their BMTs from Subway.

    [Reply]

  29. It’s 2010 could Green Bay please step up into the 21st Century? Who builds a mall in the middle of a downtown URBAN area and call itself a city? Malls are sub-urban not urban. They eat small business owners in the same way a Walmart does when it comes into an area.

    A few years ago some construction workers from out of town were downtown looking for some place to eat lunch and asked me if they were really downtown and where they could go to get some lunch. He-llo! All I could do was laugh.

    As far as declining population It is declining. Check the U.S. Census. I’m glad the mall died. It is embarrassing to live in a city and not be able to go shopping, see a movie and we won’t even talk about the public transit system or hailing a cab (they’re all at the airport).

    Downtown caters to tourists, suburbanites and the rural folks who come into the city for a hot minute or work and go home. It caters to football fans and enthusiasts while neglecting the people who actually live “IN” the city and that is why the population declines and they have a difficult time attracting businesses and people to the area. Green Bay should make up it’s mind to stop living on old glory or call itself what it is—a town, not a city.

    [Reply]

    Amy Van Beek Reply:

    @Vanessa,
    I agree with your comments. Mostly about how we cater to the Packers. We are a Port City with a wonderful history. A lake leading into a Bay flowing into rivers. Yet all people care about are the Packers. Don’t get me wrong they bring in alot of tourists which mens money. I also think it is great that city owns a Football. I just think we should have more.

    [Reply]

  30. I was looking at the 2009 photos and got a bit depressed…

    Some of my oldest memories are of Port Plaza…my brother was 15 years older than me, so when I was 4/5 he was 19/20 and Port Plaza was the “cool” place to go and he always had to babysit me…sooo along I went!

    I remember Tilt the most…my brother had a friend who worked there, so all I had to do was say what game I wanted to play, and the machine was opened and…bam! 99 free credits! and when I got bored I moved onto the next one. 99 credits again! that was basically their hang out…he had a friend who pretty much owned the Mortal Kombat game…so he always played on other kids money. lol.

    I couldn’t go to the mall, with anyone, without seeing the fountain, and I always wanted to dig the money out, like all little kids do. If there was a day it wasn’t on, i’d be upset.

    When I was old enough to bicycle around town me and a few friends went there…I was bent on spending some time at Tilt…and was pretty much shocked at the emptyness. Being young with old parents who avoided big malls, I had no idea that the mall was crashing. The last memory I have was a security guard yelling at me for going the wrong way down an escillator. That was when the mall was Washington Commons.

    I hate Bay Park. It has none of the feeling, none of the cool that Port Plaza had. If it wasn’t for being in a crappy location it would still be the number 1 mall.

    I’d give anything for one last walk through…but B&E and Tresspassing is one thing I DON’T need on my record.

    [Reply]

  31. Here’s a set I created on Flickr for Port Plaza’s grand opening on August 10, 1977:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/13878970@N06/sets/72157623395433012/

    Also includes an early mall directory and JCPenney ad!

    [Reply]

  32. I don’t think the mall failed at all. I think things were done on purpose to shut it down and move everything to the eye sore of green bay. Lambeau field. they had a game store called electronics boutique and i remember when they told us they were closing, because we used to go there all the time for our games. they said the mall was raising all the stores leases to a point where they couldn’t pay it so they left. and that happened to business after business. and soon there was no reason to go to that mall because all the good stores had left. Our city needs to get over their packer fetish. even now they could open that mall if they had cheap prices for tenants and make it a success. but they won’t

    [Reply]

    Amy Van Beek Reply:

    @Caleb in green bay,
    YES! I totally agree!

    [Reply]

  33. @OMG, also, they purposly raises leases on companies. now every thing is by lambeau field go figure. doesn’t surpise me

    [Reply]

  34. http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/99999999/GPG0101/604200437/0/theme

    Port Plaza mall for sale from april 14th 2010

    [Reply]

    Bill Reply:

    I agree with Vanessa; “Who builds a mall in the middle of a downtown URBAN area and call itself a city?”

    I was 16 years old in when Port Plaza mall opened and even from our limited vantage point most people my age thought it was a mistake. We called it Port Plastic Mall … which outside of the clock … it was!

    What nobody here seems to remember is what downtown Green Bay looked like “before the mall.” It was all about walking down the street and window shopping. Some of the presentations where truely amazing, with Christmas being the most memorable. I remember even Pranges had numerous interesting window fronts.

    Imagine what downtown Green Bay would look like today had the 70’s bureaucrat’s had the vision to build the mall on the edge of town. At least “that Mall” would have been somewhat interesting. Bay Park Square is without a doubt the ugliest mall I have ever seen. I won’t set foot in there today based solely on principle… what an eyesore! Back in 1977 most city planners with even the mildest research data knew malls belong on the edge of town with free parking. Enough said!

    That brings me back to Vanessa’s comment. “Where is this city of Green Bay?” I walked around downtown last week and there are more churches than stores… more government offices than people. Once again with even the mildest of research our current “city” planners will find that people have to live downtown for it to revive itself. Do you realize there is not one retail place downtown to buy basic groceries, like a gallon of milk, a dozen of eggs, or a chocolate bar.

    The city center of Green Bay is near death!

    First thing first is to realize the abandoned mall is a cancer and needs to be removed if any semblance of life is to return. (If I still lived in Green Bay I would be on the corner collecting signatures to tear down the mall). It’s to late to worry about who was at fault and who should pay.

    Lets all agree that Port Plaza Mall was a mistake and its time to tear it down and get our “City” back.

    [Reply]

    ShopKo Fan Reply:

    @Bill, It seems that the Olde Main Street and Broadway districts are becoming our ‘new’ downtowns. At least there’s a few gas stations with convenience stores and Save-A-Lot to fulfill all your grocery shopping needs. We also have Family Dollar.

    I certainly agree that Port Plaza needs to be torn down. Who else is with me?

    In the mean time, check out their Facebook page:
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Port-Plaza-Mall-Green-Bay/269029829381?ref=ts

    [Reply]

    Amy Van Beek Reply:

    @Bill,
    You summed it up perfect! I couldn’t agree more.
    I never step foot in Bay Park Mall.

    [Reply]

  35. April 14th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/99999999/GPG0101/604200437/0/theme

    Port Plaza mall for sale from april 14th 2010

    Here is a perfect opportunity for the City of Green Bay to re-invent itself. It’s fantasy island to ask $8 million for the old mall but the the city could buy the property back for say $4 million. (Which amounts to $40 per tax paying citizen.)

    Tear down that tangled mess and start fresh with a bold new city center redevelopment plan that includes actual people living downtown. The “City” of Green Bay would recoup it’s paltry $4 million tenfold in a very short period of time.

    [Reply]

  36. The clock was sold earlier this week to a town in mississippi and is dismantled and beeing shipped there. a true piece of green bay history going back to where it first came from. It’s over a hundred years old i guess according to the article. go to yahoo and type in port plaza mall green bay to get it.

    [Reply]

  37. Facebook page for Port Plaza:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Port-Plaza-Mall-Green-Bay/269029829381

    [Reply]

  38. Oh no!!! A friend of mine just moved to Green Bay and told me that the Port Plaza Mall no longer exists! That is so sad!

    I lived in Green Bay from ’87-’97 when I was the age of 5 to 15. I remember my sisters and I hanging out with our friends there during our middle school and high school years. We’d have our parents drop us off at the library where we’d go in and place our backpacks on a table in a secluded spot and then we’d walk over to the mall via the skywalk. I also remember Prange’s being bought out by Younkers.

    I’m glad though that the 2 elementary schools I attended are still there…Jefferson and Fort Howard! In fact my 5th grade teacher still teaches at Fort Howard!

    [Reply]

    pdiddles03 Reply:

    @Former Green Bay Resident,

    Actually it still does exist.

    http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/99999999/GPG0101/51017031/Cut-to-downtown-plan-spares-Washington-Commons

    Mall is no longer being torn down. Owners supposedly have a list of 30 tenants who want to move in!

    [Reply]

  39. Does anyone know where I could get a recording of the tv tryouts for puttin on the hits at Port Plaza in 1987-1988.?????

    [Reply]

  40. I DONT agree with the notion malls dont belong downtown. However I do agree with the fact alot of cities have done it wrong. You bring a mall downtown I needs to not only have all the clothing and shoe stores but also the necessities. A Grocery Store, bank, post office, drug store and also restaurants and entertainment. Make some venues have streetside display windows and entrances. Make it a destination for not only shopping the latest trends but a destination for life as well…

    Another thing a lot of cities have gone wrong with is shopping malls not being mixed use. A downtown two level mall takes up alot of space. Opportunity to include office towers, hotels and most importantly apartment buildings in its design being built right on top. Any left over roof space being made into rooftop gardens. Make it personal, fill it with local art, make it beautiful and timeless. “Modern” means white walls and glass domes. Those are cold sterile unwelcoming places. Timeless is wood, marble, brass, decorative lighting. Searching around label scar i find alot of older shopping malls from the 60’s and 70’s are alot warmer and welcoming in terms of interiors unlike modern “Maximized Natural Daylight” malls.

    Connect the mall to adjacent buildings and services via skyways and tunnels. Include a major bus terminal for those without cars. And include free parking on weekends, which is something more successful city centers practice these days. And USE the common areas for events and displays rather than stuff kiosks selling tacky jewelry and cell phone cases in every empty space. I always thought a farmers market would me great for the inside of a mall on weekends.

    Shopping streets are nice, but i find indoor public friendly spaces like a city center mall are important as they are a place of refuge away from weather and cars. They are a place to actually go into downtown. Unlike a cafe or store where you feel as if (or you DO) have to buy something if you want to sit and relax. And a mall is something, its a building, a place a thing to go into. The small street grid that will be created after the malls demolition will be nothing, it will be less than what it was before the demolition… Some more traffic lights to wait at, more places for a car to drive and LESS space for PEOPLE.

    [Reply]

  41. An update – Schreiber Foods is building a new headquarters-research center along the Main Street (north side) of the WC site, with the rest to be demolished, starting later this year (they’re going through it now to find things that can be recycled). The project will also mean the demolishing of the Days Inn (formerly Beaumont Motor Inn) just northwest of the mall; this has already started. There are no plans for the rest of the site.

    [Reply]

  42. Thanks for the excellent write-up on Port Plaza Mall’s history and its place in the larger context of the topics covered. My spouse and I never spent too much time there, but it holds special memories as one of the first places visited in Green Bay and where we purchased an engagement ring. Our six years in Green Bay hold many memories, even after having relocated 25 years ago to another state due to employment. It’s good to hear of the next revitalization happening in 2012.

    [Reply]

  43. Port Plaza Mall was a big part of my childhood in Green Bay. It was THE mall for many years! We did our back to school shopping there every year until the late 90’s when Bay Park Square finally had a larger number of good stores. My friends and I would hang out at Port Plaza for hours. When it met it’s demise I took one last walk through the week before it closed for good. It was sad to see it go. Last year (2012) it was torn down after sitting vacant and condemned for years while owners and banks argued over who owed what. There are photos out there of what it looked like inside after closing, and it is really quite sad and eery. There was a water mane break that caused flooding and a lot of vandalism and squatters. So sad.
    This was post close/pre demolition http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/PR/images/Port%20Plaza%20-%20Washington%20Commons%20%283%29.JPG
    http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/PR/images/Port%20Plaza%20-%20Washington%20Commons%20%287%29.JPG
    http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/PR/images/Port%20Plaza%20-%20Washington%20Commons%20%288%29.JPG
    http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/PR/images/Port%20Plaza%20-%20Washington%20Commons%20%2813%29.JPG
    http://www.ci.green-bay.wi.us/PR/images/Port%20Plaza%20-%20Washington%20Commons%20%2826%29.JPG
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrpaulusa103/6147314129/in/photostream
    Very beginning of demolition, a lot of the rubble seen was due to storm damage and flooding after a water mane broke.
    http://interactives.fox11online.com/photomojo/gallery/2145/
    http://interactives.fox11online.com/photomojo/gallery/2145/43894/washington-commons-demolition/escalator-out-of-order/

    [Reply]

  44. I want to say that I grew up on Broadway & Dousman in 70’s and early 80’s. The Platten Building. My Mother took me to the opening day of Port Plaza Mall. I will never forget it. Of course I fell in love with “The Gold Mine”. I spent alot of time and money through the years following. My favorite store was “Jokers”…or “Jokers Wild”. If you were there you remember. I played a russain chess player at age of 9 and really thaught I could beat him cuz he was playing about 40 of us at a time. ..I lost. However I got to meet T.J. Do you remember T.J. and the A.N.T.? All Night Theater? I stayed up all night every Friday night watching scarry movies. He was my hero in the day. I live in Milwaukee but my heart is in Green Bay. Dont get me started about Bay Beach! Lmao!

    [Reply]

  45. This is sad indeed, I had so many memories of Port Plaza Mall. I have an odd question that hopefully somebody out there knows the answer or at least an approximation, I was wondering in the 1990’s, when did Port plaza mall go non-smoking?

    [Reply]

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