Portland’s next creative hot spot? An abandoned DMV in a mostly empty mall

Jason Kreher invites you to get out of the house already and try his member-based co-working space.

Portland’s next creative hot spot? An abandoned DMV in a mostly empty mall

Working from home got you down? Eager to hang with some likeminded creative souls? Just curious what the hell is going on inside the mostly empty Portland, Oregon, shopping mall where Tonya Harding once learned to skate?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should look into Jason Kreher’s new member-based creative work studio, opening soon in an abandoned DMV in the Lloyd Center Mall. It’s called, aptly enough, “DMV,” and it promises to be an exciting new meeting and working spot for Portlanders feeling isolated in our strange hybrid/WFH/post-Covid world.

“The pandemic fucked my world up in many ways, some good and some bad,” Kreher, a longtime creative, told Ad Age. “That experience made me re-evaluate how I get to good work, how I want to spend my time, and what I need to feel creatively inspired. A thriving creative community is my answer to all three of those. Thus, the DMV was born.”

Kreher joined Accenture Song as North American chief creative officer a year ago, after a wonderfully weird career at Wieden+Kennedy. But this isn’t an Accenture project—it’s Kreher's personal experiment to revive a sense of community among Portland creatives.

“So many people don’t want to return to the office, but do miss a sense of creative connection,” he said. “Beyond simply a work space, the DMV is meant to encourage connections among members of Portland’s creative community. This is primarily a meeting space. Secondarily, a community. And third, a thought experiment disguised as a membership club hidden within an abandoned government office in a nearly empty shopping mall.”

‘Kind of a shithole’

The irony here is fun: the attempt to turn a DMV—notoriously the most boring place on earth, synonymous with alienation and stasis—into a place of connection and creation. Be aware, though, that the old DMV DNA remains. Indeed, the space is exactly as it was left in 2012, minus some chairs that were ripped out.

“This is not a WeWork or a SoHo House. It’s kind of a shithole, to be honest,” Kreher said. “But there is something freeing in seeing this space as a kind of blank canvas. The office is littered with stacks of old files, fully functioning Dell computers running Windows XP, and all of the weirdness you’d expect from a bureaucracy that suddenly closed its doors more than a decade ago. The hope is that many of these things will feel like an open prompt to create within the space.”

“I’m so inspired by Meow Wolf’s founding artists and their pure source creative energy,” Kreher said. “As someone who grew up in advertising, I think I’ve gotten a little precious about the craft of my work. Which is great, but can also be a barrier to trying new things. A big part of the draw of this place, to me, is the lack of budgets and the lack of constraints. But the ugly, low-res jankiness of that video also lets people know this place is not very fancy and I don’t want to fucking hear about it if the light bulb is burned out.”