Why are businesses leaving downtown Portland?

Written by Rebekah Pratt, Vice President, Business Client Advisor

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, I have witnessed the transformation of this city over the years. From my childhood memories of exploring the iconic landmarks to my early working years in the heart of Downtown, Portland which has always held a special place in my heart. However, in recent times, the city has faced significant challenges as businesses and people have been gradually leaving. In this article, I aim to explore the factors contributing to this exodus while reminiscing about the Portland I once knew. 

When I think of Portland, I instantly conjure images of vibrant places like Powell’s Books, the Saturday Market, the Oregon Zoo, and the breathtaking Cherry Blossoms along the waterfront. Working amidst the heart of the city’s commercial economy felt like a dream come true. I loved being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of sharply dressed business professionals moving purposefully from one appointment to another. As a young professional, I relished being a part of this vibrant environment and taking my place among them. 

Living in the Northwest District, my husband and I embraced the downtown lifestyle wholeheartedly. Our daily routine involved: Grabbing espresso on the way to work, exercising at 24-Hour Fitness in the Pearl District, and running along the scenic Waterfront Loop. 

The evenings were reserved for exploring the city’s diverse restaurant scene, often accompanied by live music at a local bar. Portland was our playground, and we reveled in its offerings. Fast forward to 2023, and the once-thriving city of Portland is now grappling with challenges. As a native Portlander, it pains me to witness the departure of businesses and the subsequent impact on the city’s vitality. The question arises: What can we do to address this situation? Is it a matter of prioritizing the needs of the many over the few, or vice versa? 

While acknowledging the struggles faced by our beloved city, I remain grateful to work for a company that still leases space in Downtown Portland. My colleagues and I continue to support local businesses, starting our mornings with coffee from our favorite spot (a shout-out to Barista!). We traverse the city streets, discuss interest rates and market trends, and eagerly explore the diverse culinary options during lunch breaks. We make time for rejuvenating runs along the waterfront, cherishing our connection with the city we love. 

As a native Portlander, my heart aches for the challenges faced by our city. However, I am hopeful that with collective effort and innovative solutions, we can revive the spirit of Downtown Portland and create a future where businesses thrive, people flourish, and the vibrancy of this unique city is once again restored. 

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