Last week's WW cover story examined the state of downtown Portland ("Knocked Down Town," Feb. 17, 2021). The blocks surrounding the federal courthouse have become a fixation of national news pundits, who declared downtown a war zone during last summer's protests, and now use images of a boarded-up shops as evidence for this city's decline. So WW reporters spent days in the city's heart, interviewing everyone from a contractor who covers up busted windows with plywood to cashiers at gas stations and convenience stores. Here's what our readers had to say:
Amber Linkh via Facebook: "Why is downtown the most important neighborhood? Because it has a mall? Local businesses are all over this city. There are neighborhoods that are full of a lot more art and culture than downtown."
Claire Eliese Luttmer via Facebook: "Bring back unique shops that are affordable if you want locals downtown. Otherwise, it's just going to stay a high-end tourist trap."
Ryan Kunzer via Facebook: "For those wanting to know why downtown is the most important neighborhood, it's because of tourism. It brought in $5.6 billion to our city in 2019 alone. I know how many Portlanders think about tourists, but all those great restaurants, pubs, beautiful parks on the eastside wouldn't exist without a downtown full of tourists bringing their money into our city."
Mitch Craft via Facebook: "We literally boarded everything up in March. It's been that way since March! It's not 'riots,' it's not 'protests,' it's the fucking global pandemic. I know, 'cause I remember when we and all of our neighbors hung the boards."
StuB, via wweek.com: "The obituary has been written as far as we're concerned. My wife and I finally have been returning recently to downtown after many months staying away to get a feel for it as we soon need to re-up our Oregon Symphony season tickets for what will be our 23rd consecutive year. Three weeks ago, we went to Southpark Seafood near the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and were sitting outside under the 'tarp' having a drink when a brazen young man walked up to us, grabbed my wife's purse off her arm, and spirited away. The damage to downtown's vibrancy and safe feel is here to stay until the people of Portland elect some leadership that is not feckless. That is a good decade away, in my estimation."
Nick Petersen via Facebook: "I see this as reinventing ourselves. I grew up here and I love this city, even when it drives me crazy. This is a wakeup call to do things better: to confront institutional racism and gentrification, investing in neighborhoods to make them livable, and to actually house the de-housed, rather than warehouse them. We need to stop focusing on making Portland a white hipster wonderland and invest in all populations equally, which requires local leaders brave to do so; sadly, most of ours lack the backbone. It'll be tough. But we can do this."
@jochely3 via Twitter: "If you think the demographics and location of this city won't be attractive to investment and development after COVID, you're sorely mistaken. Seattle didn't die in the '70s even though many predicted it would. Portland has the same upside. No one I know is leaving."
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