Downtown Portland 2020

2020 Downtown Portland Business Survey

Every year, we invite businesses in the downtown core to share thoughts on how our community is doing. From feedback on cleanliness and livability to business growth and development, the perspectives shared highlight what is working and what needs improvement.  As a new approach to the historic impacts of 2020, we moved the survey online to allow for a faster response and release on the state of business in downtown Portland.  Because of the historic impacts of 2020, we also included a new section of COVID-19-related impacts to businesses in Downtown Portland. 


As an enhanced services provider for the city of Portland, the teams at Downtown Portland Clean & Safe conduct this annual survey to better understand conditions of doing business in the city’s center. (Read past reports here.)

Questions are designed to determine expansion, contraction and relocation plans on an annual basis. The purpose of the survey is to also identify factors and trends affecting business operations and commerce in Downtown Portland. 

Traditionally, the Downtown Business Census & Survey includes employment and industry counts from Oregon Employment Department, through a partnership with Prosper Portland. Because this data for 2020 will not be available until Q2 or Q3 of 2021, we chose to release the business survey results now and will share census data when available. This is a comprehensive data gathering project that involves downtown Portland businesses, government entities and nonprofit organizations.  

This survey reflects the experiences of business owners and managers operating within the I-405/I-5 loop, between Oct. 1, 2019 and Oct. 1, 2020. 


At the time of this survey (Nov. 15 – Dec. 31, 2020) many businesses in Downtown Portland were still reeling from the impacts of 2020.

By all accounts, 2020 brought a seismic economic shock to Portland’s Central City. The economic shut-down from COVID-19, a rising population of people experiencing homelessness, and nightly destruction from political violence, separate from the peaceful expressions of racial justice, contributed to a shift in sense of place in Downtown Portland.

While a challenging year, based on survey comments, many businesses still hold a sense of pride for Downtown Portland. However, business owners, at the time of this survey, also expressed a loss in confidence in the city’s ability to deal with the most pressing livability concerns. Several comments indicated businesses were at the edge of a systemwide collapse in our downtown retail core.

Quick takeaways:

  • 57% of responding businesses reported a decline in revenue, a significant rise from 17% in 2018*
  • Of businesses that reported a decline in revenue: 34% expect it will take more than three years to recover; 19% expect it will take three years to recover; 30% expect it will take two years to recover.
  • 90% of responding business who saw a decline in 2020 received either EIDL or PPP loans to help them remain in business in 2020.
  • Of those businesses who received forgivable loans 75% will be able to meet the obligations needed to have the full loan forgiven.

Downtown Portland Business Health  


Downtown Livability  

When responding to survey questions regarding livability concerns, respondents were asked to consider the boundary of the Downtown Portland Clean & Safe District (see map).


2020 Focus: Impacts of COVID-19  


Downtown Demographics 


The information for this survey is not scientific. It is collected by voluntary participation, based on business location. The experiences reported are used for business development and competitive analysis. Information on individual enterprises is not released.

Two notifications for this online survey were mailed to owners and managers of all businesses, organizations and government agencies located within the study area, comprising of more than 3,200 locations. Those that did not respond to the direct mailing were also contacted via email, when available. In total, 10% of locations contacted participated. The survey is conducted on an annual basis using Oct. 1 of each year as the baseline date for responses and collected information.


When responding to survey questions regarding livability concerns, respondents were asked to consider the boundary of the Downtown Portland Clean & Safe District (see map).


Downtown Portland Clean & Safe is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides extraordinary essential services to the people, places and businesses within a core 213-block area of our unique city. Operating since 1988, the district is one of the oldest, largest and most successful enhanced service districts in the nation.

Read more about our research and reports.

*2019 data was not available at report release, due to complications from the COVID-19 shutdown in early 2020. This information will be made available at a later date.