Downtown Portland Came (More) Alive in 2022

It’s still not 2015 in PDX, but it’s not a smoking crater, either, a survey shows.

HIT THE ROAD: Kelly's Olympian bar in downtown Portland. (Brian Burk)

Stumptown isn’t dead yet. Foot traffic in downtown Portland rose 25.7% in 2022 after the plague year of 2021, according to the Portland Business Alliance, which tracks activity in a 213-block area.

June was the busiest month last year, with 2.26 million visits, the PBA said. August was second at 2.22 million.

Though up, traffic last year is still down from pre-COVID, pre-protest days, PBA said.

“The Downtown Portland Clean & Safe District is close to 60% recovered from 2019, but we are lagging behind other cities in recovery efforts,” PBA said in a press release.

Pro-business advocates have been fretting Portland’s slow return to 2019-level activity as other cities rebound. At a conference held earlier this week by the Revitalize Portland Coalition, speakers exhorted political leaders to bring public-sector workers back sooner rather than later. Mayor Ted Wheeler is requiring almost all city workers to return to the office half time starting in April.

“If we don’t have office employees downtown, they don’t support the amenity base, and they don’t make it feel safe with the additional people that are nonhouseless,” said Jerry Johnson, founder of Johnson Economics.

Patrick Gilligan, executive vice president at Lincoln Property Co., a Dallas-based developer that’s been active in Portland, said the city can no longer blame COVID-19 for its slow rebound.

“There are a lot of cities that are living their best lives right now,” Gilligan said. Austin, Nashville, Boise and Salt Lake City are all seeing growth, driven by new arrivals, he said.

Downtown Portland’s commercial vacancy rate was 26% at the end of 2022, according to a report by real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. That figure is likely to hit 40% in coming months as more leases expire, says Stu Peterson, a partner at commercial brokerage Macadam Forbes.

“The main reason people have moved out of town is crime,” Peterson says. “You can’t park your car.”

On a more positive note, PBA said the total number of pedestrians stayed above 2 million starting in March. The hot spots were around Pioneer Courthouse Square, where people were drawn to luxury stores like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. There also was an “intense center of traffic” around Ankeny Street, where Voodoo Doughnut, BAES Fried Chicken, Afuri and Stumptown Coffee Roasters converge, PBA said.

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