2023 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. DHM Research edited 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 between Oct. 1, 2022, and Oct. 1, 2023.  

Key takeaways:

  • 79% of responding businesses indicate they have lost customers due to the “reputation of downtown” showing a decrease from the 87% reported last year.
  • 30% of respondents reported better business compared to the previous year, 32% reported similar performance, and 38% reported a decline.
  • For businesses experiencing a downturn, the primary reasons cited were customer loss due to homelessness (93%) and perceived safety issues (84%).
  • The influence of COVID-19 on customer loss has significantly decreased, with only 17% citing it as a factor compared to nearly 38% in the previous year.

Regarding cleanliness and feelings of safety:  

  • The percentage of businesses needing graffiti removal has decreased from 78% to 72%.
  • The need for repairs to windows, doors, and buildings has decreased from 77% to 67%.
  • Instances of employees quitting due to safety concerns have also decreased from 50% to 45%.

When Downtown Portland Clean & Safe was called for service:  

  • 71% of participants expressed satisfaction with the overall timeliness and customer service of Downtown Portland Clean & Safe compared to 68% last year.
  • 87% of participants had a “Very” or “Somewhat” positive reaction to our Safety Services compared to 75% last year.
  • 91% of respondents viewed the holiday and winter lights in downtown and Old Town as a positive enhancement to the downtown area, marking an increase from 89.85% last year.


While businesses in the downtown and Old Town area have had several years of challenging economic uncertainty and upheaval, overall, we are seeing business conditions improving and the downtown and Old Town areas are beginning to see vitality restored and new businesses move in. Notably, when we asked businesses about leaving the district, 73% responded that they were staying in their current location.  

Feedback from the business community emphasized the need for the city to address issues such as homelessness, mental health challenges, and the drug addiction crisis on the streets. Many called for stricter enforcement of city regulations regarding graffiti removal and managing nuisance properties in downtown and Old Town, including government-owned buildings. Concerns were also raised about the perceived lack of tangible benefits despite the high taxes in Portland. However, the most frequently mentioned issue was the visible presence of drug use and sales in public spaces like sidewalks and parks in the district. 


Results from the December Pedestrian Counts indicate that pedestrian traffic is slowly increasing. 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. 

One notification for this online survey was mailed to owners and managers of all businesses, organizations and government agencies located within the study area, comprising of 7760 businesses. Additionally, we reached out to businesses and ratepayers via email. Overall, 428 individuals participated in the survey. 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.