« Progressive Garbage | Main | Co-Ho In No-Po: The Encouraging Trend of Tenant-Driven Mutlifamily Housing »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


What is the point of a MAX stop at a Furniture store? Even if you can get there without a car, are you going to take your furniture home on the MAX? This seems to be exactly the wrong kind of store to take up space near a MAX stop.


I agree with Robert, it's pointless to take public transit to a furniture store.

It's like walking to a Costco; what the heck can you carry home?

Now, if they have a delivery service on the other hand . . . do they?


IKEA gives you a discounted delivery price if you show them your MAX ticket; which is a pretty good deal if you live in the city and don't have a car.

Also, I'd rather see the big box stores out on Airport Way and promote smaller scale, pedestrian friendly, commercial enterprises within the city.


They do offer delivery. And as I understand it, if you present them your MAX ticket they will give you $10 off the cost of delivery.

If you accept the premise that the Big Box is the natural outgrowth of urbanization and city size, do you also have to accept they be built without permeable paving in the parking lot green roofs facing the sky?

I've purchased a few things at Ikea and I can understand the draw to a certain extent. I don't, however, think they get a free pass in the city just because they cater to some class of the design community.


No, the Big Box is the result of industrialization and mechanization of the production process, combined with the demise of the older middleman distribution system and automation of freight transportation (trucks, trains, cargo ships, and the almighty container).

They also depend on lots of people accessing their stores, which either requires a super-high density area (shopping district) or a freeway exit with tons of parking.

Tax breaks also help quite a bit.

Without those ingredients, big-boxes are unprofitable, as virtually any other type of store can offer MUCH better service and experience, which is oftentimes more important to people when shopping.

Note that many European cities have big-box stores on the outskirts of the cities, as do some Japanese and Chinese cities.


The original concept of the flat-packed products IKEA sells is partly inspired by the fact that Europeans rely heavily on public transport instead of cars. So they need to be able to take their purchases home with them on trains, trams and busses. In many European cities, it's not uncommon to see people getting on a train or tram with some flat-pack IKEA box. So I'd say a MAX stop makes sense for IKEA, at least it would if Portland was Europe. Americans are much more in love with cars, so maybe not, but then again, Americans will never begin to abandon their cars until governments build useful public transport.


About 10 years ago, living in Vancouver, Canada, the poor university student that I was didn't have a car, so I took the bus to IKEA, bought a lot of stuff, then I called a taxi (a van taxi), and loaded up my stuff and went home. I may not have made a round trip by public transport, but I did use it to get there in the first place.

It's interesting that walking to Costco was mentioned as unrealistic, because 127,000 square foot Costco store was recently built in downtown Vancouver, Canada. There is no sea of surface parking. It has condo towers on top and all around it, and it's right beside a Skytrain station. People can and do walk there.


And don't forget that this Max line goes to the airport. Any one who has flown in recent years knows people don't travel with less than a laptop, a carry-on bag, two shopping bags, and a roller bag the size of the dressers that Ikea sells!


as a long time transit user, i keep one of those "old granny carts" just for this kind of scenario.

i could load that thing up with a coffee table, some curtains, some flatware, etc.

in 20 year, as portland develops around its growing rail system, i expect this to get more common.

Agustin Enriquez V


"In writing this, I'm not trying to express a particular argument so much as an open-ended question. Is a banal big-box alright if the designs inside are good enough?"

Would a yes to the above question lead one to appreciate banal tilt-up concrete office space so long as Wieden+Kennedy dreamt up Nike's ads inside or uninspiring suburban style tract housing as long as they are populated with funky artists?


Yes, the city IS its people, so if the artists are there I'll take the concrete box over an empty pretty building.(OK that's a hypothetical, I would rather have both).

Ouch Augustin, did you try to tip over the sacred cow of the much lauded Wieden Kennedy building (or should I say the beaver...)


Augustin, you and your intelligent contrarianism. Of course the answer is no, but things aren't black and white. That was my point more than to suggest crappy buildings are made up for by creative work inside. They're not. They still suck. Or maybe I'm just cranky because I didn't get enough sleep last night.

Agustin Enriquez V

I was not intending to denigrate W+K's building in the pearl. In fact, it is one of my favorite spaces in Portland (along with a few library reading rooms and the Japanese gardens). And Brian, I wasn't trying to get you in some kind of intellectual trap; I like your question and find it provocative. Its something I think about in the work I'm involved with quite often--how much does the building matter vs the benefit of the work going on inside and around the building.

PS There is no "u" after the A in my name--I get that a lot. That and an "e" at the end.


Ah that makes it even more exotic, I like that! Do you stress the second syllable? (a-GU-stin)

Agustin Enriquez V

Nope, its a long "i" at the end (aw-goo-STEEN). The exotic part of my name is that I'm named after my father who was named after his father who was named after his father who was named, believe it or not, after his father: making me "el quinto". (and if I had a son, he would be "el sexto".)

So really, I'm Agustin Enriquez V. Pretty damn fancy pants for an American. Not too common to find number fives alive unless you're a pope or a queen or, say, five hundred years old.

But back to IKEA and big box developments, I think (like most things) everything in moderation. I recall a quote from Barbara Kingsolver's book The Poisonwood Bible that went something like "something right in one place can be totally wrong in another." Big-box retail IKEA here may be right; big-box retail downtown Portland may be not.


Wether or not a FEW people actually take the MAX to the IKEA, my point is that there is a higher and better use for land next to a MAX stop than a Big Box store that FEW people will take the MAX to. Given the CURRENT way MAX is used and the CURRENT way people get their goods from the general Big Box store. This is not a good use of land near a MAX stop. It should be developed with uses that do not almost always require a car anyways.


Keep this in mind, though: How might a cluster of small suburban-style office buildings (or whatever they had planned) been THAT much better?


It would have been better if there was residential development, but that is apparently a problem with the airport noise nearby? (But as you said Brian, they knew that when they started off planning...)
I think light rail or public transport needs to achieve a certain critical mass and coverage before it can be useful. With so many flights arriving late at PDX I don't think an every 30 minutes MAX after 10 pm and the last run before midnight makes it practical to use.(Especially to connect to the every 45 min late evening Streetcar.)


As for the location, I do not think they even care, I think it has to do with the fact that they can attract all of vancouver because of the lack of sales tax...especially if you are trying to furnish your place and save money

Second, I think as long as it is not walmart big box is just fine, with large cities you have to have large companies. At least they put it near a max line and under the airplanes


Having lived in a European city for many years with a couple accessible IKEA stores, and having lived in Portland without IKEA... WITH IKEA is much better. Counting the hours until I visit. Any thoughts on when it will actually be wise to go? A week after opening perhaps. Are they really standing in line already?

J P McLaughlin

Perhaps now I can stop spending all of my pocket change on offsets to make up for the 300 mile trips to Ikea in Seattle!


I think that some office buildings would be a lot better use for the land. Considering the traffic congestion between Portland and Vancouver, a lot of office workers would take the MAX to work compared to the number who will take it to IKEA. Why are people so forgiving of bad development simply because of the product they sell? Why can't this product be delivered in a more responsible way? Or at least from a location that is not taking land from uses that would benefit from the MAX?

Frank Dufay

the Big Box is the result of industrialization and mechanization of the production process

Uh, yeah...and IKEA is the result of making the consumer the assembly line production worker.

There was actually a time in America when we bought stuff that was built and assembled for us.

Bart King

We have friends from British Columbia who marvel at the American fascination with IKEA. They maintain that in Canada, the store has all the cachet of Target.


IKEA may have a similar cachet of Target, but really what's wrong with that? Do you remember life before Target? Bad design was the only thing available at moderate or low prices.

IKEA does offer a unique service to anyone at any pricepoint, and that is bringing ideas to life visually. For many who have difficulty putting it all together, IKEA basically offers a designer's vision, in mini-rooms and many of them. That service is not just an American fascination, but one that transcends across borders, help visualizing.

The other phenomenon is not unique and that we all covet a bit of what we don't have. Our friends from British Columbia have a fascination with Chipotle Mexican Grill! Go figure.

Frank Dufay

For many who have difficulty putting it all together...

That would be me...I absolutely hate buying stuff I have to put together.


As a disabled person, I find it offensive that anyone would say this is not a good use of the MAX stop. I should be able to get anywhere, without a taxi. At the current moment, I have no furniture because there are no affordable furniture stores within reach of public transport. So this looks like a great use to me. Just because there are fewer of us who cannot drive, does that make our needs less important? Nope. The MAX and buses should reach anywhere and everywhere they can - regardless of whether large number of office workers will use them. There ARE other reasons why people take public transport.


This is not a good use of the MAX stop. The areas around transit stops should be surrounded by uses that encourage and allow opportunities for the transit to be utilized. Big Box development does not do this. Effort has been put forward to get the MAX extended to more parts of the city and this development has gone and built the usual crap. As I had mentioned before, the product could be great and could be useful to people who use transit, but the way it is being delivered is not.


this is not the best use of a max stop, but as one of the comments above states, perhaps over the next few years portland will become as european as it claims to be and it will make sense. and at least now my friends will not be wasting all their gas driving up to washington to shop at ikea.

that said, ikea is no better than walmart. their products are cheap and flimsy and are purchased with the idea that they are disposable. i live in a neighborhood of transient college students and i can't even begin to tell you how many piles of particleboard ikea furniture i see on the sidewalk every june.

one last thing, with portland on the forefront of sustainable design, why is it that retailers proposing buildings over a certain square footage are not required to construct underground parking garages? i would at the very least hope that the parking lot is pervious. i recently flew in to pdx and saw the big behemoth for the first time. i couldn't believe that my hometown did not require underground parking. it was ghastly - that giant blue billboard surrounded by a sea of parking. if that land had been reserved for other uses and the parking were underground, perhaps smaller retailers and restaurants could have been sustained on the same property, sharing the ikea parking.


Placing a bix box store underneath air traffic is certainly a good use of a damaged site. I can't imagine anyone wanting to live or run their small business directly under the flight path. The land surrounding the airport has been a dead industrial wasteland for many years for just that reason.
I for one welcome our new big box furniture overlord. If they can do business locally and create jobs, then more power to them. Thanks for boosting the economy, and giving the poor among us access to half decent designs!


No one suggested it is a good location for residential development. That is a bit of a "staw man" argument.

As for your other example... small businesses ARE cropping up alongside the Ikea. I saw a small golf store and a few others.

Office space would utilize the transit opportunities better than a big box furniture store and that is the example that was sited before your post.

As far as creating jobs locally, it employs as few people as a retail store possibly can; you even have to find your own box in the storeroom once you have picked something out!

Additionally, most the goods at Ikea are produced with cheap labor in asia and the former eastern block countries.

I am not suggesting there shouldn't be a place for people to find affordable furniture, just that this is a bad location for it and a crappy development.


Check out www.urbancamping.ca


Were you in charge of finding a location for IKEA, would you not locate it where store employees could commute by MAX?


I know this is an old post, but for the record I have taken the MAX to IKEA and bought, and yes, carried goods home with me. Some could argue that it is actually (gasp!) MORE convenient than driving there. We've also bought a display model bookshelf in the Pearl and rolled it onto the streetcar, as well as a pair of fully assembed chairs that we sat in as we took the streetcar home. When all you've got is a Mini and a fixed gear, you start to appreciate the spaciousness of light rail. You do get a couple of chuckles from the other passengers though...

That said, aside from the IKEA, all that development seems like a waste of concrete to me. I wish that money and energy had gone into the city core. Hell, I wouldn't even mind a Costco that I could ride the MAX to and had underground parking and worked with the urban fabric. Maybe for the Milwaukie light rail path or along Grand for the streetcar loop. I think it's cool when you can get a national chain to get outside their franchise architectural form and fit in with an urban environment. It's like the McDonald's downtown. I'm not glad it's there, but I'm damn glad it's not a drive through attached to a surface lot.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Lead Sponsors


Portland Architecture on Facebook

More writing from Brian Libby


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad

Paperblogs Network

Google Analytics

  • Google Analytics

Awards & Honors