2021 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 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.

This survey reflects the experiences of business owners and managers operating within the I-405/I-5 loop, between Oct. 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021.  


At the time of this survey (Nov. 15 – Dec. 15, 2021), many businesses in Downtown Portland were still reeling from the almost two years of economic uncertainty. Business owners and managers detail the combined impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, the challenges presented by the rising population of people experiencing homelessness, and a growing concern with personal safety for themselves and for their employees.

Results from the December Pedestrian Counts indicate that pedestrian traffic has not returned to pre-pandemic levels and is lagging behind what several comparable cities are experiencing in this phase of the pandemic.

Business owners, at the time of this survey, also expressed a loss of confidence in the city’s ability to deal with the most pressing livability concerns. Several businesses indicated that they were actively looking to relocate out of the Downtown core and that drastic action is needed by City, State, and even Federal officials to solve these pressing safety and livability needs.

Quick takeaways:

  • 59% of responding businesses reported a decline in revenue
  • 39% of businesses surveyed indicated they were considering relocating their business.
  • 68% of the respondents felt the city to be unsafe.
  • 82% of the respondents felt their businesses were negatively impacted by the continued homelessness crisis.
  • 89% indicated that the cleanliness of the city needed improvement.

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).


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.