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In case you missed it...Portland continues to lag in downtown recovery

In their ongoing study of cities recovering from the pandemic, the University of Toronto's School of Cities, recently released their Spring 2023 report and Portland finds itself in the unenviable position of 3rd from the bottom.

During March to May of this year Portland's downtown activity was 37% of what it was pre-pandemic. That's just a little more than 1/3 of the foot-traffic the city saw during the same time period in 2019. Think about that..nearly two thirds LESS people downtown. Two-thirds fewer people eating at restaurants, staying at hotels, or just out and about walking the Park Blocks!

Healthy downtowns thrive when employees and residents, visitors and tourists are actively engaging in the commerce and the entertainment of the city. When our public spaces are more "activated" a whole of host of good things happen: greater personal safety, greater cultural opportunities, more jobs for all salary levels, less vandalism and destruction,...the list goes on and on.

The ongoing study - part of the Downtown Recovery Project - measures cellphone activity in downtowns and compares it to the same period of time in 2019, before the pandemic. The data is one measure of how well foot traffic has returned in downtowns across North America. Only San Francisco and St. Louis were below Portland on the rankings.

Perhaps most troubling is that Portland's recovery rate remains stubbornly low and has even fallen further since a peak of 46% in December of 2021. In comparison, most other cities on the list have seen steadily increasing recovery rates since the late summer of 2021.

A quick sample of other cities shows this trajectory.

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This study's been completely discredited, due to their choosing very different slices of different downtowns to compare. San Diego's is 5 square miles including the airport and the San Diego Zoo, while ours is a quarter-square mile between the Hawthorne and Burnside Bridges that doesn't go as far west as Nordstrom's. Air travel and outdoor zoo tourism are recovering well, going out to lunch near in the blocks near Portland's waterfront not so much. Have a look at Portland's Metro Chamber data for a very different story, based on our entire downtown.

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Erik Cole
Erik Cole
13. Nov. 2023
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Thank you for this message. We posted a comment/update on our Linked In post after the University of Toronto adjusted their methodology for Portland - and yes, the original study's methodology was flawed, as you indicate. We will update this article as well.

You can see our new Linked In post here:

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