is it me, or does Portland (OR) have an abnormally large and vibrant downtown?

Just came back from a visit. Now, granted, it was a Saturday night in an as-ideal winter’s day/night (crystal clear, low 40s, no rain) for Portland.


The downtown was absolutely hopping. And it was big. And it had several different pockets of neighborhoods. I’ve been to similarly-sized metro areas (Cleveland, Raleigh, Indianapolis, St. Louis) and Portland’s downtown seemed a few orders of magnitude nicer and busier. A lot closer to a city of 5 million than 2.5 million.

Am I high on crack? Did I just see Portland’s downtown with rose-colored glasses? Or is it recognized as having a very vibrant downtown?

I lived in San Jose most of my life, before moving here to Portland six years ago. I’d never thought about it before, but I think you’re right. San Jose is larger than Portland area-wise, and much larger population-wise, yet its downtown is much smaller and not nearly so bustling as Portland. That’s likely because of the proximity of San Francisco, though.

I also spend a few months in Seattle, but I didn’t spend enough time really exploring the downtown area to make an accurate comparison. But my impression was the size and activity of downtown Seattle was about the same as Portland.

Doesn’t Portland have limitations on growth and sprawl? I would think that would tend to help maintain a vibrant downtown.

It seems a pretty expansive metro area, so the city isn’t overly dense. 580k in the city, 725k in the county, 2.2 m in the metro area…

It didn’t seem to have the forced density through zoning restrictions (like a Vancouver, BC) just that it’s… busier than i’dve thought.

Population-wise, San Jose is a huge city, much larger than San Francisco. Culturally, though, it is basically a bedroom community for the South Bay, and they appear to roll up the streets after 9:00 pm.

Seattle is substantially larger than Portland, but in many ways Portland is just kind of a toy version of Seattle, with many of the amenities and fewer of the headaches. It is actually one of my favorite cities, and I’d credit the vibrant downtown to a dedicated and sensible plan of urban renewal, an actually useful public transit system with a free zone that encourages use and reduces congestion, and a disproportionately cultural and restaurant scene. It is also a phenomenally walkable city. It has its bad points as well, including some significant gang and drug activity, but on the whole, one of my favorite cities.


Maybe it didn’t seem so, but Portland does have an urban growth boundary.

Downtown Seattle sucks at night. It’s barely bearable in the daytime. At the outskirts of downtown, there’s a little nightlife, but it’s not particularly safe later in the evening.

I had a wheelchair-bound friend who said Portland was also very accessible, and was where she spent many of her shorter vacations.

The Dream of the '90s is Alive in Portland

We visited Portland a few years ago for a long weekend and enjoyed it very much. A vibrant, clean, upbeat, friendly and very attractive city.

Portland has an Urban Growth Boundary which has helped keep the population dense and limits urban sprawl. It’s also made our mass transit system a lot more efficient since everything’s close. By comparison, Beaverton in the next county over (but still considered part of the Portland metro area) has no such law and there is all kinds of sprawl there.

Portland is also full of pocket neighborhoods that have their own nightclub and restaurant scenes. I’m always amazed by the numbers of people on the streets on weekends, just enjoying everything PDX has to offer. It’s even more fun in the summer, when there are free concerts in the parks.


That’s Portland’s airport.

Yes, Portland is a terrific town. I’d move there in a flash if I got a job offer there.

Dude - sssshhhh! :wink:

So every night, there are people out on the street enjoying what the airport has to offer?

It’s local shorthand for the city. People commonly use it in return addresses, etc.

So I’d feel at home in Portland, as we both have abnormally large and vibrant downtowns?

I love it when you talk dirty.