Downtown Retail Strategy: City Core Sees Increased Positivity, Beautified Streetscapes and Occupied Storefronts

Report to Portland City Council highlights achievements of four-year initiative

Nov 14, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. – Today, representatives of the partner organizations that created and implemented the Downtown Retail Strategy testified before Portland City Council about the strategy’s positive impact on the vibrancy of downtown. Implementation of the strategy has resulted in the recruitment of new shops and restaurants, investments in redevelopment, significant improvements in the retail core’s streetscapes and 68 percent of area residents having a positive perception of downtown.

Because a healthy downtown is the cornerstone of a strong regional economy, Mayor Sam Adams convened a working group in late 2008 to define a signature retail concept for the downtown retail core. The working group, consisting of the mayor’s office, Clean & Safe District, Downtown Marketing Initiative/Travel Portland, Portland Business Alliance, Portland Development Commission and Portland Mall Management Inc., developed what is now the Downtown Retail Strategy.  One main goal was to create a clear retail destination downtown in what is now branded as the Pioneer District. 

A concentrated effort to define and enhance the Pioneer District has included significant physical streetscape improvements, supportive marketing, targeted retail recruitment and strategic investments in redevelopment projects.

Retail recruitment

• Fast Fashion: Larger scale destination fashion retail concepts
Successes: H&M, Tory Burch, White House Black Market
• Indigenous Retail: Continue prioritization for recruitment and retention assistance
Successes: Independent Retailers in the West End Crafty Wonderland and the PDX Pop-up Shop program
• Restaurants: Recruit indigenous restaurant concepts and large nationals
Successes: Café Yumm, Ringside FishHouse, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Yardhouse, Imperial
• Other Supportive Retailers: Cosmetics, Home Furnishings, Electronics, Sports Equipment
Successes: Sephora, Nike, Shreve and Co., City Target
Redevelopment investments:
Since the strategy was put into effect, the following buildings have been renovated with new tenants:
• Kress/Caplan
• Pacific Center
• Yeon Building
• TJ Maxx @ Sixth Avenue Center

Currently the Galleria and the former Saks Fifth Avenue at Pioneer Place are being renovated for two new major anchor tenants at either end of the Pioneer District.

Streetscape improvements:
• Refreshed paint with a new color on light poles
• New light globes on all painted poles
• 50 banner armatures with Pioneer District branding
• 28 new planters, (15 by 6 feet each)
• 15 Big Belly solar trash compactors
• Three newsracks on key corners


• Cohesive yearlong campaign that strengthened the region’s impression of downtown, with 68 percent of Portland-area residents having a favorable opinion
• Ongoing activities and promotions that engage with retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and cultural amenities to encourage Portland-metro residents to shop, eat and experience downtown
• Launch of comprehensive website at and active engagement in social media to build and foster relationships with downtown customers and brand advocates

"Downtown Portland is the region’s best place to shop because we as a community have made it so,” said Mayor Adams.  "Together we have leveraged our resources and gotten creative in order to attract more shoppers that in turn, creates jobs and keeps our economy going.”

"We know that an active and healthy downtown is also a clean and safe downtown,” said Dave Hamilton, Chair of the Clean & Safe District.  "This undertaking has led not just to more options for shoppers, but a more vibrant and active downtown for everyone.”

"Looking back, we could not have timed this effort more perfectly as the real work began as the economy began to fall and by having a plan in place and staying focused, we have been able to keep downtown’s momentum going, resulting in the new retail investments we are seeing today,” said Sandra McDonough, President & CEO of the Portland Business Alliance.

Next steps:

The Downtown Retail Strategy working group will continue as efforts are now being planned to add more programming along the signature streets, continued marketing campaigns and retail recruitment and retention efforts.