My brother's down on his knees

I had personal business on the south end of downtown Portland one morning last week. Coming home, my driver took me north on Fourth Avenue, as far as the Morrison Bridge. I used to work in a skyscraper on that street, and so I knew the basic layout well. And I must say, I was shocked at how dead it was.

Here it was, 10 to 1 on a weekday afternoon, and between Portland State and Alder Street, there couldn't have been many more than a half dozen pedestrians. I am not exaggerating. Whole blocks of storefronts, abandoned. What they're saying about the death of downtown is not hyperbole.

As someone who fell in love with Portland when there wasn't much going on here, at one point on the ride I started to feel a little spark of hope. With all that prime real estate just sitting there for the taking, part of me wanted to think that there's opportunity galore. People who are willing to take a chance on the place have a blank canvas to paint on, I thought. I've seen it happen before.

But on reflection, I realized that no, a turnaround won't be happening, at least not in time for me to see it. Between the inept politicians, the worthless cops, the nonprofit leeches, the anarchist losers, and the fentanyl murderers, not to mention all the troubles facing any city in America, someone placing a bet on Portland right now is cruising for a bruising.

I knew it was bad, but wow, to see it with my own eyes made quite an impression. It's really a ghost town down there.


  1. Some people describe the riots as protests. They will never understand why Portland’s downtown commercial has moved out.

    1. Much as you wish it was Antifa who killed downtown, that's simply untrue. Portland has a RICH history of protests and it recovered each time. One need look no further back than the Occupy protests during Obama's first term. A lot of the same stuff happened then, yet we all came back.

      What makes this different is tens of thousands of us figured out over the last forty-eight months that we don't need to go to the office to sit on Zoom calls. Why go downtown if I don't have to?

    2. Riots of any kind or reason, killed the bottom line of businesses downtown over the years and now we see the results of the protests and riots.
      Cars attacked just for driving down the wrong street as a riot is developing.
      Hard to keep a business open if people are allowed to break your $2,000.00 dollar window and $500.00 plywood repair. Not to mention the theft. Now adding dealing with the homeless on drugs or mentally ill scaring away employees and customers.

      That is what a history of protests/riots achieve.

    3. I worked downtown from 2015 to 2020, well after Occupy (and the Iraq protests and WTO before it!). It was thriving. Office occupancy was well over 90%. Commuters filled garages daily. Stores were occupied. It was a really great place to be. There were no developing riots. There were no roaming gangs of thugs. Sounds like you weren't a part of it. You missed out.

      As for the theft, it was game over the day insurance companies told their retail clients their loss prevention folks could no longer put their hands on thieves. That happened LONG before 2020.

    4. The riots did a lot of harm, particularly along that stretch of Fourth. It went on and on for over a year. It was way more destructive than anything that had gone before. People died.

    5. It's a common story at the end of dysfunctional marriages. At some point the enabling partner hits a breaking point and (inexpicably to the abuser) just walks away.

  2. What you see as decline, City Hall and its bobble-headed bureaucrats see as success ...

    No downtown traffic ... better for bicyclists.

    No downtown restaurants ... chains are a blight.

    No downtown retail ... we should "Buy Local" instead.

    Crime, trash, tents, tarps ... It’S lIkE ThIs eVeRyWeHrE

  3. Lots of real estate is being “auctioned” on the courthouse steps these days. Montgomery Park got returned to the lender last week and several other downtown buildings as well. The local property titans didn’t bid.
    Portland isn’t recovering.

  4. Condoning the Antifa ideology is a major issue.

    1. It's more anarchism than whatever they're telling you on Fox News that "Antifa" is. "End civ" hates all political parties.

    2. I agree, it is the toxic combination of a lot of factors where any one would have not been enough but the sum feels fatal (or at least long-term). Portland appears to be doing the worst of all major cities after Covid, and it feels like the combination of street folks perpetuating the aftermath of the year of riots was the tipping point. I worked downtown for a few years in the 80s and got to know it fairly well. Though I moved just out of the Tri-Met area 30 years ago, I still visited frequently for work, shopping, restaurants, art, and nightlife. Since 2000, I have few reasons to go downtown anymore, and when i do, particularly at night, it feels like an encampment. I went to a show at Jack London a few months ago - had to search for safe parking as the 3rd and Alder garage I used to use is closed due to too much vandalism and human filth, and then I was questioned and wanded going into the bar to see if I was carrying weapons. Sketchy folks everywhere reminded me of the junkies on Avenue C in the early 70s, and that, plus the encampments blocking the sidewalks, robbed me of a normal sense of personal safety. I'm too old to do that dance anymore, and I feel sad that a place I loved has slid so far in such a short time.

  5. I worked downtown from 1988-1995 for Xerox first, then jumped across the street to work for Blue Cross. Downtown was humming then, and there were numerous businesses that catered solely to the workers.

    A lot of capital had been invested in that area, and it was paying off quite well. Not that I am a big player or a enthusiastic booster for that kind of thing, but what is the alternative? Abandon city.

  6. Last 3 weeks I had business downtown one day a week.
    I was surprised each day I found a curb side parking spot right in front of the building I was frequenting. But then each day there was always 1-2 "characters" roaming the same block who made me leery of leaving my car there for just an hour. Portland has always had its share of homeless and opportunist criminals but this new breed is something else. These didn't look like victims of poverty or casualties of capitalism but the bastard children of big pharma.

    My guess is Portland will slowly turn back around. In 5, 10, 15, X, years young adults will "discover" a hip, affordable, medium size city near nature that is starting to have a bustling food, arts, music scene and has fairly low crime. The existing residents will seem rather dour, apolitical and pragmatic. This "undiscovered gem" will attract those with utopian tendencies but it will take a few years before anyone starts to implement any of those edicts with any zealousness. And many more years before they decide rioting, arson, looting, and assault is a form of civic engagement and junkies, felons, and the homeless are prophets to lead us. As Vonnegut would say, "So it goes."

  7. Commercial real estate defaults is likely to crash the economy. And if you thinks it's bad now, wait till they roll out the next phase of destroy the West. Their Agenda 2030 has great ideas, like you can only fly 950 miles every 3 years. And you can only buy 3 clothing items a year and eat only so many calories per day. That's why they want to get rid of cash.

    The riots and lockdowns were not accidental. Nor were the big time cash contributions to get DAs elected who would not send anybody to jail for most crimes.

  8. I'd pay money for this show that I'm getting for free. Portland deserves every slow and painful inch of this death.

    Say, how many single fighting age males crossed the border today? Let's keep it to managable numbers and just count the Chinese.

    Orange man will lose one way or another. They will replace you, are replacing you. In this way freedom wins in the ned.

  9. I worked downtown from 2009 until the pandemic. In addition to the riots, here's the things that killed downtown:

    - The city hating cars.

    - The city creating traffic because they hate cars.

    - The city not building new parking garages or parking lots, while reducing street parking, and increasing the fee to park downtown. Even if I was willing to pay to park downtown, often ALL of the garages will full by 10:30am to 11:am.

    - It being unsafe to park your car outside on the streets, because either you would get broken into, or you might get an arbitrary $100 parking ticket.

    - The city, metro, and TriMet reducing mass transit to a pathetic joke, cutting back on useful bus services because we're building too expensive of light rail. Meanwhile, the City/Metro/TriMet refusing to build more park and ride facilities, even though the popular Park & Ride facilities are full by 7am and have been since 2004.

    - The city designing transit options exclusively around biking, at the expense of other modes.

    - The bridge, the tunnel, the total inability to build new and necessary infrastructure to meet our growing population.

    The transportation system has been spectacularly bad. Traffic and transportation routinely ranked on the top 5 of complaints from citizens prior to the pandemic. I know that at least one logistics company relocated out of Portland due to the traffic issues.

    The die was cast for downtown Portland long before the riots and pandemic.

  10. Those who could leave did leave. Either to the surrounding suburbs, or abandoned Oregon all together for other states.

    It's less expensive to visit rather than live in Oregon when the need arises.


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