PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In March 2020, former Gov. Kate Brown enacted a stay-at-home order that aimed to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon. The Stay Home, Save Lives Order has since been lifted, along with other pandemic-era restrictions, but a new report says Downtown Portland has struggled more than other cities to return to its 2019 levels.
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and University of Toronto’s School of Cities have joined forces for the “Death of Downtown?” study, which compares activity in the U.S. and Canada’s biggest cities.
The study looks at mobile phone data to determine which downtown areas have recovered the most from 2019, with the latest report looking at numbers between September and November of 2022.
Downtown Portland Clean & Safe conducted a similar study last year but used foot traffic analytics instead of cell phone data. That study showed that Portland was at 60% of its pre-pandemic levels.
However, the “Death of Downtown?” study placed Portland at No. 60 out of the 62 cities ranked for downtown pandemic recovery. According to the report, the Rose City is at 37% of its 2019 activity levels.
Portland was followed by Cleveland at No. 61, and San Francisco in the last-place spot.
On the other end of the spectrum, Salt Lake City has had the best recovery at 135%. Bakersfield and Fresno, Calif., trailed behind at No. 2 and 3, respectively.
In a research brief, the two universities explain the reasons behind pandemic recovery — or the lack thereof — in certain American and Canadian cities. The brief says that the downtown areas that struggle the most with recovery are typically older, denser and more reliant on professional and tech workers.
“Thus, particularly for these large metros, it may be time to reinvent downtown,” the brief continued. “Most importantly, downtowns should look to diversify their economies to focus on resilient sectors such as education, health, and government… Future research should
also examine the role of other factors such as crime and new downtown development in the recovery.”