A newly-released survey reveals many business owners have lost faith in the future of downtown.

COURTESY DOWTOWN PORTLAND CLEAN & SAFE - A graphic presentation of the problems facing downtown from the Downtown Portland Clean & Safe survey.A new survey confirms that most downtown businesses are suffering from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fallout from last year's political protests and a visible increase in homelessness, vandalism and trash.

According to the most recent version of the regular report conducted by Downtown Portland Clean & Safe, a large number of businesses have lost faith in the future of downtown, with many planning to leave in coming years.

"While a challenging year, based on survey comments, many businesses still hold a sense of pride for Downtown Portland. However, business owners, at the time of this survey, also expressed a loss in confidence in the city's ability to deal with the most pressing livability concerns. Several comments indicated businesses were at the edge of a systemwide collapse in our downtown retail core," reads the survey released on Thursday, Jan. 27, by the affiliate of the Portland Business Alliance.

Although Mayor Ted Wheeler has made revitalizing downtown a top priority, the benefits of any new initiatives were not apparent in the survey conducted late last year.

Among the key findings:

• 62% of responding downtown businesses owners said the central city was no longer safe, almost three times more than in 2018, the last year the survey was completed and released.

• 34% said they planned to relocate in the next two years, with only 6% saying they would stay downtown. That compares to 17% who said they planned to relocate within two years in 2018, when 50% said they would remain downtown.

• 57% reported a decline in revenue, a significant rise from 17% in the last survey conducted in 2018.

• Of businesses that reported a decline in revenue, 34% expect it will take more than three years to recover; 19% expect it will take three years to recover; and 30% expect it will take two years to recover.

• 41% said the coronavirus pandemic was the biggest issue impacting their businesses, which is twice as many as those citing homelessness, crime and protests combined.

"By all accounts, 2020 brought a seismic economic shock to Portland's Central City. The economic shutdown from COVID-19, a rising population of people experiencing homelessness and nightly destruction from political violence, separate from the peaceful expressions of racial justice, contributed to a shift in sense of place in Downtown Portland," said the survey.

When asked what needed to improve, 86% said cleanliness, 77% percent said the presence of people experiencing homelessness, mental illness and addictions and 73% said graffiti and vandalism.

Downtown Portland Clean & Safe is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides essential services to the people, places and businesses within a core 213-block area of the central city. Created in 1988, it is one of the oldest, largest and most successful enhanced service districts in the country.

The survey of business owners and managers operating within the I-405/I-5 loop was conducted between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31, 2020. It is not scientific.

The complete survey and links to previous surveys can be found here.

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