BLOG: Downtown Portland is booming

BLOG: Downtown Portland is booming

By many measures, Portland and Oregon’s economy are booming right now. Oregon’s economic expansion marches on, construction starts are up and our city is seeing a record number of cranes on the horizon.

In May, Downtown Clean & Safe, a partner of the Portland Business Alliance, released its 2017 Development/Redevelopment Report. It showed an unprecedented number of active construction projects in the central city since reporting began more than 15 years ago. There are 45 projects currently under construction, up from 39 last year, with 56 more in the pipeline. Increased development was particularly significant in the central Eastside, Lloyd and lower Burnside districts. Notably, 30 new businesses have opened in downtown in the last year, many of which are local restaurant and food based businesses. Our “Living Room,” Pioneer Courthouse Square, is undergoing a significant renovation which will be complete at the end of this month.

Hotel development has been particularly strong. In addition to three recently completed hotels, there are seven more hotel projects under construction in the central city, which will add roughly 1,250 rooms in the next two years. Additionally, there are eight projects in the pipeline, adding up to another 2,100 more rooms when complete. The largest of these projects is the 600-room Convention Center Hyatt Regency, slated to break ground in early August.

This month, Downtown Clean & Safe released its annual Pedestrian Count Results and Comparables report, which shows a 19 percent net increase in foot traffic over the June 2016 count, illustrating the vibrancy of Portland’s downtown core. This is all good news for tourism.
In terms of our jobs outlook, Oregon added 8,500 jobs in June, according to recent reports from the Oregon Employment Department, a big jump from 2,600 new jobs in May. And while the state's jobless rate rose slightly in June to 3.7 percent, up from 3.6 percent the prior month, this is the lowest rate Oregon has seen in 40 years.
This good news spreads across multiple sectors. Leading the way is the leisure and hospitality industry, followed by construction and manufacturing. In fact, our building boom is experiencing a shortage of thousands of jobs going unfilled as this expansion competes for workers.

Despite this positive news, we have to remember not everyone is benefiting. And with summer in full swing, it’s critical that the private and public sector continue to work together towards solutions to our housing crisis, and ensure our city is livable for residents and visitors alike.

Central City Concern’s work to provide housing and health services to the community exemplifies the effort needed to end the housing crisis and improve Portland’s livability. In 2016, the nonprofit, along with five other health organizations in the Portland area, announced the Housing is Health initiative. The initiative provides significant funds for a new health clinic as well as 380 units of new housing in North and East Portland, and is designed specifically for individuals and families that are homeless or at risk of being homeless.
Recently, Central City Concern opened Hill Park Apartments, a three-story, 39-unit affordable housing building in downtown Portland. The new building is not only close to transportation, parks and shopping, it also offers supportive services for residents in eight units who are experiencing mental illness. Central City is also planning to break ground on Interstate Apartments in early August. Located in North Portland, it will provide affordable housing to 51 low-income families.

Portland’s recovery since the Great Recession is undeniable. With more foot traffic and development in downtown than we’ve seen in years past, it’s clear our efforts are paying off. We must continue to work together as a community so that issues surrounding livability and homelessness don’t define our city.

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