Totem Lake Mall

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Totem Lake Mall
Location Kirkland, Washington
Coordinates 47°42′45″N 122°10′51″W / 47.7125°N 122.1808°W / 47.7125; -122.1808Coordinates: 47°42′45″N 122°10′51″W / 47.7125°N 122.1808°W / 47.7125; -122.1808
Opening date May 30, 1973 (lower mall excluding Lamonts)
Developer Puget Sound Land Company
Owner Village at Totem Lake, LLC
No. of stores and services 10
No. of anchor tenants 4
Total retail floor area 220,000 sq. ft.
No. of floors 2 (upper mall - offices)

Totem Lake Mall was a small shopping mall in Kirkland, Washington, United States. The center consisted of an enclosed shopping mall (Lower Mall), and an adjacent strip mall (Upper Mall). Collectively, the two centers were sometimes referred to as "Totem Lake Malls". Following the redevelopment of major regional malls beginning in the 1980s, Totem Lake Mall went into steady decline, losing most of its major tenants. Multiple redevelopments for the property have been proposed but were never carried out until Village At Totem Lake, LLC purchased the mall in 2015.

Major tenants in the Lower Mall were Cartoys, Ross Dress for Less, Sleep Country USA, Famous Footwear, Family Christian Book Center, My Home Furniture brand new in 2013, 24 Hour Fitness and the stand-alone, Auto Zone and Key Bank. Spaces in the lower mall were often leased by short-term and seasonal tenants. The Upper Mall included Denny's Pet World, Guitar Center, Hallmark Cards, Trader Joe's, and Big 5 Sporting Goods.

The majority of these tenants were only accessible on the outside, shying away from the interior mall concept popular throughout the 1960s-1990s. Other malls in the Seattle - Tacoma area such as Northgate Mall and Lakewood Towne Center have switched to this concept as well, having tenants on the outside as well as the inside.


The sign tower with a hidden totem pole

Originally called the Totem Lake Center, the mall was first proposed in early 1968[1] and ground was broken in June 1972.[2] The mall was the second phase of a larger Totem Lake center project including the Evergreen Hospital campus and nearby apartment complexes, all developed by Totem Lake, Inc. around the small lake of the same name, originally known as Lake Watstine. The mall was designed with an "Indian longhouse theme" by Richard C. Bouillon & Co., the same firm that designed the Lake Forest Park Center in 1964 in a chalet theme. John Graham & Company were in charge of designing the interior.[3][4] Although the opening of the mall was originally scheduled for April 1, 1973,[5] the first stores in the mall opened on May 2,[6] and the rest of the lower mall opened on May 31, 1973.[7] The mall's 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) Lamonts Anchor tenant/department store, the sixth in that chain, was still under construction at the time, and would not open until October 17 of that year.[8] Other anchors at the mall included other divisions of the Pay 'n Save Corporation including Ernst Home & Nursery, Schuck's Auto Supply, still existing until recently, a Pay 'n Save Drug store and Sportsland, later acquired by Big 5 Sporting Goods. Construction of the separate Eastern portion of the mall continued into 1974, and the East Mall was opened in July 1974. Construction of the mall would lead to the annexation of the Totem Lake Neighborhood by the city of Kirkland in 1974.[9][10] The adjacent Totem Lake Cinemas opened in 1980.

In the summer of 1988, the upper and lower malls' original exposed wood facades and finishes were covered up by grey tiles and metal as part of a renovation project that was intended to modernize the mall.[11] Many people have criticized this look and say that it is very boring and bland in contrast to the previous theme.

A huge snow storm in 1997 caused part of the lower mall's roof to cave in, triggering the sprinklers and flooding the entire mall in 3 inches (76 mm) of water. Because of water damage, the mall's original wood parquet flooring was replaced with ceramic tile.[12]

A totem pole from the mall's original construction is hidden inside a sign tower on the mall's west side. It was left on site during redevelopment to take advantage of a grandfather clause in the city's sign height limits.[13]


Arguably a dead mall today, the mall has been struggling financially and facing a "steady loss of tenants" since the early 2000s.[14] The mall has been described as a "white elephant".[15]

The first blow to the mall occurred in late 1996 when anchor Ernst Home & Nursery closed as part of the company's bankruptcy. The space eventually was divided into three stores, Ross, Famous Footwear and Cartoys, and given a remodel that contrasted greatly with the rest of the mall. This part of the mall remained occupied while the rest of the mall slowly languished.

The main mall has many vacant spaces where anchor tenants used to be, such as Lamonts (later Gottschalks). In November 2006, the Rite Aid drugstore moved out of the mall to a free standing location up the street. CompUSA closed in May 2007. As of December 2015, the mall interior has only one major retailer: a Christian bookstore. The Old Country Buffet closed in September 2008 due to chapter 11 bankruptcy consolidation. The latest vacancy occurred in March 2010 when one of the mall's only original remaining tenants, Schuck's Auto Parts, acquired and renamed by O'Reilly Auto Parts, relocated off the mall property.

Label scars (where the name of a store was displayed) still clearly indicate where many former stores were, such as Gottschalks, Radio Shack, Rite Aid, Comp USA and Grab Bag (a party supply store). The Sweet Shop (a candy store), still has signs up, despite being closed for a few years. Even a partial logo from Jay Jacobs, a local boutique that closed in 1999, is visible. Although the decor of the mall was originally themed in the style of a Native American long house, the current interior decor of the mall is from the 1980s.

Sale and redevelopment[edit]

In January 2004, the mall was sold by CalPERS to Developers Diversified Realty (DDR) for $37 million. DDR has discussed plans to tear it down and redevelop a multistory, mixed residential-retail complex.[16][17] As of February 2008, the City of Kirkland had not received an application for design review and did not know the planned mix of tenants, although the city did receive a conceptual master plan.[18] In February 2009, it was revealed that due to the harsh economic climate, DDR had postponed its redevelopment plans for the mall indefinitely and was searching for someone to buy the property.[19]

In early 2015, Totem Lake Mall was sold to Village at Totem Lake LLC, a joint venture between CenterCal and PCCP, LLC.[20] A $200 million, 12-month redevelopment of the mall was announced to begin in mid-2016, with the new mall opening in the summer of 2017.[21] In March 2016, the mall's owner began demolishing the lower mall, with the exception of 24 Hour Fitness, which will remain standing for a few more months, and the former Ernst space which is now occupied by Car Toys, Famous Footwear, and Ross. The upper mall and its former movie theater are next in line for demolition.[22] The new complex, named The Village at Totem Lake, will include 400 residential units, office spaces, and entertainment venues in addition to retail space.[23]


Lower Mall[edit]

Upper Mall[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

Matt Harding from the Internet Phenomenon, "Where the Hell is Matt?" dance videos, states in his website FAQ:

What’s your least favorite (place)?

"The Totem Lake Shopping Center in Kirkland, Washington. It’s the most depressing place I’ve ever been. I almost didn’t make it out. I think it might be some kind of gateway to the netherworld."[24]


  1. ^ "$30 Million Shopping Center Planned". East Side Journal, April 17, 1968, P. 1
  2. ^ "Ground Broken For Totem Lake Shopping Center". East Side Journal, June 14, 1972, P. 8
  3. ^ "Indian Theme for Totem Center" Seattle Times 11 jun. 1972. C1.
  4. ^ "Work to Begin on New Store" Seattle Times 21 Jan. 1973 P.H3
  5. ^ "April 1 opening scheduled for Totem Lake Center". East Side Journal, January 10, 1973, p. 23
  6. ^ "Grand opening held for some at Totem Lake Center", East Side Journal May 9, 1973, P. B1
  7. ^ "Totem Center Ribbon Cut". East Side Journal, June 6, 1973, P. A6
  8. ^ "Lamonts Opens Today at Totem Lake", East Side Journal, October 17, 1973, p. A1
  9. ^ "Totem Lake Annex Draws No Objections". East Side Journal, May 9, 1973, P. A5
  10. ^ "Annexation Closer For Totem Lake". East Side Journal, January 9, 1974, P. A8
  11. ^ "Is Totem Lake Strangling Itself?", The Seattle Times, May 4, 1988, p.H1
  12. ^ "Totem Lake Mall Stores May Reopen Soon". Seattle Times. 2000-01-04. Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  13. ^ Matt Phelps (January 12, 2011), "The history of Kirkland's Totem Lake Malls (part 1)", Kirkland Reporter 
  14. ^ Kristina Shevory (May 19, 2004). "Totem Lake Mall seeing steady loss of tenants". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  15. ^ Rachel Tuinstra (June 29, 2005). "Kirkland at 100 — The Future: A turning point in growth". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  16. ^ "Totem Lake Mall development plans". City of Kirkland. 
  17. ^ Nick Perry (January 27, 2004). "Housing studied for Totem Lake Mall". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  18. ^ "Totem Lake Mall Conceptual Master Plan" (PDF). Developers Diversified Realty. November 7, 2005. 
  19. ^ "Totem Lake Malls quietly seeking a new owner". The Kirkland Reporter. March 4, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Totem Lake Malls officially sold, company plans redevelopment". The Kirkland Reporter. April 29, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Totem Lake Mall in Kirkland to Undergo $200M Renovation, Expansion". MHN Online. May 19, 2015. 
  22. ^ "California-based development company begins knocking down Totem Lake Malls in Kirkland". Sound Publishing. March 7, 2016. 
  23. ^ Martinell, TJ (December 18, 2015). "New details emerge about Totem Lake Malls redevelopment in Kirkland". The Kirkland Reporter. Retrieved June 20, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Where The Hell Is Matt? - Frequently Asked Questions". Matt Harding. Retrieved 2009-02-16. 

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