2022 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 team at Downtown Portland Clean & Safe conducted this annual survey to better understand the conditions of doing business in the city’s center. (Read past reports here.) 

The survey’s purpose is to identify factors and trends affecting business operations and commerce in Downtown Portland. This year, we also consulted with DHM Research to edit our questions to ensure they generated quality results that we could confidently report back to the community. We ask about satisfaction levels with Downtown Portland Clean & Safe District programs and management, the City of Portland’s management of Downtown and Old Town core, and many questions designed to determine expansion, contraction, and relocation plans in the Downtown area. 

This survey reflects the experiences of business owners and managers operating within the I-405/I-5 loop, between Oct. 1, 2021, and Oct. 1, 2022. 

Key takeaways: 

  • 87% of responding businesses indicated they have lost customers due to the “Reputation of Downtown.” 

Regarding cleanliness and feelings of safety:  

  • 78% of businesses indicated they had to have graffiti removed. 
  • 77% of businesses have repaired windows, doors, and other parts of their building because of vandalism. 
  • 50% have had employees quit because they did not feel safe. 
  • 85% of the respondents felt their businesses were negatively impacted by individuals who are homeless and living on the sidewalks of Downtown and in Old Town.  
  • 69% of respondents did not feel rules governing behavior on sidewalks were being adequately enforced. 

When Downtown Portland Clean & Safe was called for service:  

  • 68% of respondents were pleased with the overall timeliness and customer service of Downtown Portland Clean & Safe. 
  • 75% had a “Very” or “Somewhat” positive reaction to our Safety Services provided now by GardaWorld. 
  • 89.85% felt the holiday and winter lights Downtown and in Old Town to be an enhancement to the Downtown area.  


This year, there was significant information in the results about crime, safety, and livability of the Downtown area; as well as the loss of customers through reputational damage. The results below highlight these questions and answers, and the responses capture the essence of the concerns raised by the majority of the survey takers. While a majority of respondents are committed to staying in Portland, they vented their frustrations and urged city leaders to address safety, cleanliness, and the humanitarian crisis on our sidewalks.

At the time of this survey (December 1 – Dec. 31, 2022), businesses in the Downtown and Old Town area have had several years of challenging economic uncertainty and upheaval. While these conditions have been exacerbated and revealed by the COVID-19 crisis, for most businesses and this time, COVID-19 has fallen behind other issues as their top concern.  

Throughout this survey business owners and managers detail the combined impacts of a crisis in safety and crime, lack of cleanliness in the downtown area, and the challenges presented by the rising population of people experiencing homelessness. All these issues are listed as a greater challenge than COVID-19 during this past year.  

While COVID-19 is still leaving economic upheaval in its wake, it is currently scoring behind other issues as the most pressing issues for Downtown and Old Town businesses. Notably, 87% of survey respondents indicated the largest reason they have lost customers in the past year is due to the “Reputation of Downtown.” 

Results from the 2022 Pedestrian Count report indicate that traffic has not returned to pre-pandemic levels and is lagging behind what several comparable cities are experiencing in this phase of the pandemic. 

Businesses and managers are showing tenacity, resiliency, and determination in making it through these continued challenges.  


The information for this survey is not scientific. It is collected by voluntary participation, based on business location. Questions were reviewed by DHM Research for bias and survey protocol. 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 annually using Oct. 1 of each year as the baseline date for responses and collected information. 


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.