PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Downtown Portland is slowly but surely on the road to recovery, or at least that’s what the latest results of a University of Toronto study indicate.
In “Death of Downtown? Exploring Pandemic Recovery Trajectories Across North American Cities”, researchers at UT and the University of California, Berkeley use mobile phone data to discover which downtown areas have returned to pre-pandemic activity levels.
When KOIN 6 covered this study in April, Portland was ranked among the worst places for post-pandemic recovery. That data focused on downtown activity from September 2022 to November 2022, when the city had only reached 60% of its activity levels compared to 2019.
This made Portland third-to-last on the list, following Cleveland and San Francisco in the final spot at No. 62.
However, the original report identified downtown areas in the U.S. by using zip codes, and downtown areas in Canada by choosing neighborhoods with the highest job density.
Earlier this fall, researchers updated the study with more cities and with a slightly different methodology.
“In our October 2023 update, we’ve improved these definitions to not rely as heavily on administrative or census boundaries, which often do not reflect the actual geographies of cities’ downtowns,” researchers said of the update. “To create these new definitions, we used jobs data to identify concentrations of jobs in individual city blocks and then drew a polygon around these clusters to represent downtown.”
The most recent results, based on mobile data from March to mid-June of this year, revealed that Portland had gone up just one point to 61%. Despite the small increase, the city has jumped from third-to-worst to sixth-to-worst.
Minneapolis, Louisville, Ky., and St. Louis, Mo., now take the bottom three spots. St. Louis was in last place with just 53% of its pre-pandemic levels.
Cleveland and San Francisco, which previously filled the bottom three spots along with Portland, have jumped to No. 31 with 78% and No. 48 with 67%, respectively.
With 103% recovery, Las Vegas is the only city that’s exceeded its 2019 numbers. The popular party destination was followed by El Paso, Texas, San Jose, Calif., Bakersfield, Calif., and Oklahoma City for the top five cities.