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Is Portland back? – The Hiu Vibesbullet

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Charts by Rachel Saslow

click to watch the full video

Photographs by Mick Hangland-Skill, Chris Nesseth, Nick Mendez and Allison Barr

Anyone can recite the question: is Portland over?

Ever since the pandemic and riots emptied downtown two years ago, Portlanders have been obsessing over whether Rose City’s bloom is gone.

A few months have delivered as much nightmare fuel as this one.

In the past two weeks ww has reported that the Benson Hotel has lost a large corporate client over fears of spending the night downtown. Foreclosure proceedings have been initiated against three other hotels. A quarter of downtown office space is vacant — and that’s before Liberty Mutual Insurance told employees it was vacating nearly a dozen floors of its eponymous office tower in the Lloyd District. murders and auto theft rates are about to dwarf last year’s rates, which were already the highest in decades.

Related: Is Portland the new Detroit?

stupid stuff With that in mind, you may be surprised by the question we are going to ask you next:

Is Portland back?

There is actually a reason to believe that. If you venture into a business district in any Portland neighborhood on a Friday night, you’ll witness a scene straight out of 2019. Busier, maybe. These street seats are no longer just for COVID safety — they’re overcrowded.


The same downtown blocks that are dreary during the day begin to bustle by sundown. Lines in front of the nightclubs in the old town wind around the block. Pioneer Courthouse Square swarms with concert-goers hopping to the Shins song that will change your life.

It’s so at odds with the national perception of Portland—and even the local one—that we felt it deserved a closer look.

We wondered if our eyes were deceiving us. But statistics kept by the hospitality industry suggest a recovery isn’t just beginning – it’s almost complete. Portland bourgeois life in 2022 looks like a bald man with a mullet: there’s no shop up front, but there’s still a party in the back.


“The night economy is recovering well,” said Dan Lenzen, co-owner of the Dixie Tavern and board member of the Old Town Community Association. “Almost everyone is busy at the weekend.”

in the last few months, wwThe journalism of has focused on the parts of our city that have stopped functioning: police unresponsive to crime, employees refusing to return to the office, and poverty and mental anguish on the streets that the government seems helpless to deal with.

This reporting is true. But it’s only half the story.

The other half can be found one page after the cover story each week in a feature we call Street. There our photographers documented the return of the festivals, competitions and nightlife that give this city a common narrative. Portland isn’t Portland without the Adult Soapbox Derby, Waterfront Blues Festival and Pickathon. And those events returned this year for the first time since the arrival of the coronavirus. On the following pages we show our favorite shots from the returned summer in Portland.


We hope they raise a smile – but that’s not to be taken lightly. Common spaces and common narratives make a city worth living in. What’s the point of living crammed together if not meeting old friends at the bar? Asking whether Portland will return to such community events is one way to diagnose the city’s chances of survival.

And that counts even more this year. In the coming weeks, three nominees for governor will be asked how they will help Oregon’s most important city. Two of them — Christine Drazan and Betsy Johnson — are already airing TV ads that portray Portland as a cautionary tale, hellscape, and most importantly, a drain on Tina Kotek.

It’s tempting to brush that aside – to dismiss it all as scaremongering. It is more difficult to measure the truth of the claims. But on the following pages we will try.


As we looked at numbers from industry associations and local governments, a pattern emerged: Portland isn’t a ghost town, but it’s a late bloomer. This city has mostly emerged from its quarantine, but it hasn’t fully returned to pre-pandemic life — or hasn’t recovered as quickly as other places.

The same number kept popping up: Portland is 80% where it was before the virus. Is this a successful recovery? The answer is not as clear-cut as true believers on either side of the partisan divide would like it to be.

So is Portland back? This is a serious question – because the answer shows us how far our homeland still has to go.


barometer 1

Car trips indicate a return to social life.

Portlanders may work from home, but they don’t stay at home. Traffic counts show driving has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels. We’ll have to wait and see how the rise in gas prices will affect the final 2022 numbers.


barometer 2

MAX riders aren’t quite back on board just yet.

Those car miles can be inflated by people’s desire to remain isolated in their vehicles. A better barometer of how many Portlanders are venturing back into the world? Bus and train tickets.

TriMet Attracts New Drivers With $7,500 Signing Bonuses Due to a National Driver Shortage. But passengers appear to be reboarding buses and MAX trains of their own accord, albeit not at pre-pandemic levels. For example, in February 2020 there were 1.9 million TriMet rides; The number hovered around 1 million in the last six months.


Mood barometer 3

Portland’s restaurants and bars have staff — but not like the rest of Oregon.

Here’s a place where you can clearly see that Portland is lagging behind the rest of the state. Employment in bars and restaurants is thriving across the state, but Portland only has 8 out of 10 jobs in this sector.


Mood barometer 4

Restaurant reservations follow bookings in other cities.

A tight job market is one of the reasons Oregon’s restaurants aren’t staffed. Another reason is that Portland diners are still sticking to their clamshell deliveries. In-person dining here — as measured by reservations and walk-ins logged by booking site OpenTable — remains well below pre-pandemic numbers. This recovery sits right in the middle of the pack among similarly sized western cities.


barometer 5

Attending live shows is still moody.

Live performances over the past year have been a worrying affair given checks on vaccination cards, KN95 masks and the risk of side glances from other attendees for singing or laughing too heartily. And it’s still hard to tell how healthy attendance is at most venues — private ballrooms don’t voluntarily announce their attendance numbers.

But state venues have to. Portland’5 Centers for the Arts (which consists of five performing arts venues including the Biggies Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and the Keller Auditorium) is operated by Metro. In the past financial year, the number of visitors was 61% of the pre-pandemic numbers.


Mood barometer 6

Portlanders seem more confident when visiting outdoor attractions like the zoo.

After a pandemic that saw Oregon Zoo’s residents mostly observed through its consistently great social media channels (black bears in a bathtub! elephants eating pumpkins!), at some point it’s time to see the real deal. Visitor numbers at the Oregon Zoo are about 80% of what they were before the plague, the zoo says.


barometer 7

Big festivals returned this summer.

The following 10 events returned in the last six months after being canceled or dramatically altered for two years.

March 13:

Shamrock run

10th of April:

Bridge to Brews

May 27 – June 26:

Rose Festival in Portland


1st-3rd July:

Portland Craft Beer Festival

1st-4th July:

Waterfront Blues Festival

July 4th:

The spectacular fireworks display at Oaks Amusement Park on July 4th

28-30 July:

Oregon Brewers Festival

4th-7th August:


20th of August:

Portland soapbox races for adults

24 Sept:

The Wedge Cheese Festival ,

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