Last fall I visited downtown after mainly staying out of the central business district (CBD) since COVID had set in. I was looking to get my daughter’s computer fixed at the Apple Store which was the only one that had next-day appointments available.
After arriving and walking around the CBD, I was shocked. I took some pictures to document what I was seeing and not seeing — people.
I received a lot of comments on my post. Some were agreeable and others were more critical. I didn’t come at the right time; I framed the shots; it was a political post of some sort.
None of these were correct. It was just a snapshot of time during a weekday afternoon that historically should have been a busy time to be downtown.
The Portland Business Alliance had EconNW take a look at the data and try to understand what is going on. This last week, the report was published and the findings are fascinating.
Covid has no doubt impacted the way we work and shop. Foot traffic is the lifeline of retail establishments.
Work from home and downtown uncertainly impacted the return to work and related foot traffic. Overall, foot traffic is down 30% of pre-pandemic levels
Office Vacancy Rates
Unsurprisingly to me, office vacancies are twice as high as the historic average. This is telling. What does this mean? There are over 8 million square feet of available office space in the downtown core area.
Time will tell what will happen to all this office space.
Tenant Improvement Permits
Another indicator of economic health is building permits – specifically tenant improvement (TI) ones. The peak of TI Permits was in 2016. Permits declined from years 2021 to 2022.
Property Tax Receipts
Property tax receipts grew from $78.3 million to $280.8 million, or 5.2% annually unadjusted for inflation, from 1997 to 2022. Notably, receipts fell in 2022 for the first time since 2005.
Am I surprised? No. This data validates what I saw last year. I hope that Portland will rebound. Like many others, I have fond memories of Downtown and the stores, hotels, and activities that made it a special place to visit as a kid.
What is the solution? I am not sure but I am open to ideas and starting a dialog to make something positive happen.