Downtown Portland, Oregon

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Portland, Oregon skyline from the Ross Island Bridge.jpg
Downtown Portland, viewed from over Interstate 5
Portland map.png
Red pog.svg
Coordinates: 45°31′10″N122°40′47″W / 45.51935°N 122.67962°W / 45.51935; -122.67962 Coordinates: 45°31′10″N122°40′47″W / 45.51935°N 122.67962°W / 45.51935; -122.67962
Country United States
State Oregon
City Portland
  Association Downtown Neighborhood Association
  Total1.00 sq mi (2.58 km2)
 (2010) [1]
  Density13,000/sq mi (5,000/km2)
  No. of households8,353
  Occupancy rate87% occupied
  Owner-occupied1,099 households (13%)
  Renting6,171 households (74%)
  Avg. household size1.53 persons

Downtown Portland is the city center of Portland, Oregon, United States. It is on the west bank of the Willamette River in the northeastern corner of the southwest section of the city and where most of the city's high-rise buildings are found.


The downtown neighborhood extends west from the Willamette to Interstate 405 and south from Burnside Street to just south of the Portland State University campus (also bounded by I-405), except for a part of northeastern portion north of SW Harvey Milk Street and east of SW 3rd Ave that belongs to the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood. [1] High-density business and residential districts near downtown include the Lloyd District, across the river from the northern part of downtown, and the South Waterfront area, just south of downtown in the South Portland neighborhood.

Portland's downtown features narrow streets64 feet (20 m) wideand square, compact blocks 200 feet (61 m) on a side, [2] to create more corner lots that were expected to be more valuable. The small blocks also made downtown Portland pleasant to walk through. The 264-foot (80 m) long combined blocks divide one mile (1.6 km) of road into exactly 20 separate blocks.

By comparison, Seattle's blocks are 240 by 320 feet (73 m × 98 m), and Manhattan's east–west streets are divided into blocks that are from 600–800 feet (183–244 m) long. [3]

Urban development


Downtown Portland in 1973
Downtown Portland in 2007 Portland panorama3.jpg
Downtown Portland in 2007

By the early 1970s, parts of Portland's central city had been in decay for some time. [4] New suburban shopping malls in the neighboring cities of Beaverton, Tigard, and Gresham competed with downtown for people and money. Unlike many downtown revitalization efforts around the United States at this time, Portland's plan did not call for widespread demolition and reconstruction. Robert Moses, the designer of New York City's gridded freeways, expressways, and bridges, designed a plan to revitalize downtown Portland. Moses charted a highway loop around the city's central freeways, which would become Interstate 405 as it links with I-5 south of downtown. [5]

Additionally the creation of a downtown transit mall in 1977, a new waterfront park in 1978 (later named after Governor Tom McCall) in place of a freeway, the creation of the Pioneer Courthouse Square in 1984, the opening of the Portland–Gresham light rail line in 1986, and the opening of Pioneer Place mall in 1990 successfully drew or retained businesses and lured customers. After 1990, downtown Portland dominated the city's development, with 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2) more development there than on the east side (Lloyd District, Central Eastside Industrial District, and Lower Albina). [6]


Downtown Portland has many surface parking lots, [7] which the city is attempting to reduce in order to promote higher density, create storefronts, and make downtown more vibrant.[ citation needed ] Some changes are being made slowly, such as the creation of the Smart Park garage system,[ citation needed ] and conversion of a surface-level parking lot into a park with underground parking at Park Block 5 between the Fox Tower and Park Avenue West Tower.

In 2020 and 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Downtown Portland faced an increase in homeless camps, and a reduction in office workers due to remote work. During and after the Black Lives Matter protests, there was an increase in graffiti, property damage, and windows being boarded up. [8] [9]


Portland is sometimes known as "Bridgetown," [10] due to the number of bridges that cross its two rivers. There are nine bridges entering downtown and immediately adjacent areas. The bridges are (north to south): [11]

Outside the downtown area there are three other road bridges within Portland limits that cross the Willamette River: the St. Johns Bridge and Sauvie Island Bridge (to the north) and the Sellwood Bridge (to the south).


Most streets in downtown Portland are one-way. Naito Parkway (two-way, formerly known as Front Avenue) is the farthest east, while most of the high-rises end by I-405 to the west. Interstate 5 runs on the opposite bank of the river, crossing over on the Marquam Bridge. U.S. Route 26 connects downtown Portland to the Oregon Coast and the Cascade Range.

Downtown is also served by several forms of public transportation. TriMet, the regional mass transit agency, operates MAX light rail on two alignments in downtown, one running east/west on Yamhill and Morrison streets and north–south on 1st Avenue, the other running north–south on 5th and 6th avenues. On the latter two streets, an extensive transit mall—known as the Portland Mall—limits private vehicles and provides connections between more than fifty bus lines, MAX light rail, and the Portland Streetcar.

The southern part of downtown and the West End are also served by the Portland Streetcar system, operating from South Waterfront north into the Pearl and Northwest Portland districts. The system currently has two routes, measuring 7.2 miles (11.6 km) end to end, and connects in South Waterfront with the Tram (aerial cableway) to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

Starting in 1975 and continuing for almost four decades, all transit service in downtown was free, as downtown was entirely within TriMet's Fareless Square, which also covered a portion of the nearby Lloyd District after 2001. However, in 2010, free rides became limited to MAX and streetcar service – no longer covering bus service – and the zone renamed the "Free Rail Zone", [12] and in September 2012 the fareless zone was discontinued entirely, because of a $12 million shortfall in TriMet's annual budget. [13]

Street Sign Toppers in Downtown
University District SW Market St.JPG
Portland State University District in the south part of Downtown
Cultural District SW Park Av.JPG
Cultural District along the South Park Blocks in Downtown
Yamhill Historic District SW Yamhill St.JPG
Yamhill Historic District in Downtown

Sites of interest


The U.S. Bancorp Tower, with Mount Hood in the background Bancorpmthood.jpg
The U.S. Bancorp Tower, with Mount Hood in the background

Several high-rise buildings are located in downtown Portland. [14] The five tallest are:

Adjacent districts

See also

Related Research Articles

Interstate 5 (I-5) is the main north–south Interstate Highway on the West Coast of the United States, running largely parallel to the Pacific coast of the contiguous U.S. from Mexico to Canada. It travels through the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, serving several large cities on the U.S. West Coast, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, and Seattle. It is the only continuous Interstate highway to touch both the Mexican and the Canadian borders. Upon crossing the Mexican border at its southern terminus, I-5 continues to Tijuana, Baja California, as Mexico Federal Highway 1 (Fed. 1). Upon crossing the Canadian border at its northern terminus, it continues to Vancouver as British Columbia Highway 99 (BC 99).

Willamette Shore Trolley

The Willamette Shore Trolley is a heritage railroad or heritage streetcar that operates along the west bank of the Willamette River between Portland and Lake Oswego in the U.S. state of Oregon. The right-of-way is owned by a group of local-area governments who purchased it in 1988 in order to preserve it for potential future rail transit. Streetcar excursion service began operating on a trial basis in 1987, lasting about three months, and regular operation on a long-term basis began in 1990. The Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society has been the line's operator since 1995.

Marquam Bridge Carries Interstate 5 traffic over the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon

The Marquam Bridge is a double-deck, steel-truss cantilever bridge that carries Interstate 5 traffic across the Willamette River from south of downtown Portland, Oregon, on the west side to the industrial area of inner Southeast on the east. It is the busiest bridge in Oregon, carrying 140,500 vehicles a day as of 2016. The upper deck carries northbound traffic; the lower deck carries southbound traffic. The Marquam also has on and off ramps for Interstate 405 on the south end of the bridge, while the terminus on the east bank of the river is near the interchange with Interstate 84.

Interstate 405 (Oregon) Interstate highway in Portland, Oregon, U.S.

Interstate 405 (I-405), also known as the Stadium Freeway No. 61, is a short north–south Interstate Highway in Portland, Oregon. It forms a loop that travels around the west side of Downtown Portland, between two junctions with I-5 on the Willamette River near the Marquam Bridge to the south and Fremont Bridge to the north.

Fareless Square was an area within central Portland, Oregon, where all rides on TriMet buses and light rail and the Portland Streetcar were free. It primarily consisted of the downtown area and, after 2001, the Lloyd District. It existed from January 1975 through August 2012, but was briefly renamed the Free Rail Zone in January 2010 after its coverage became limited to light rail and streetcar service, with bus rides no longer being free. The TriMet board decided in June 2012 to discontinue the Free Rail Zone primarily to help fill a large shortfall in the agency's budget, and the action was one component of a package of extensive budget cuts which also included service reductions and fare increases. The Free Rail Zone ended on August 31, 2012.

Transportation in Portland, Oregon Overview of movement of goods and passengers in Portland

Like transportation in the rest of the United States, the primary mode of local transportation in Portland, Oregon is the automobile. Metro, the metropolitan area's regional government, has a regional master plan in which transit-oriented development plays a major role. This approach, part of the new urbanism, promotes mixed-use and high-density development around light rail stops and transit centers, and the investment of the metropolitan area's share of federal tax dollars into multiple modes of transportation. In the United States, this focus is atypical in an era when automobile use led many areas to neglect their core cities in favor of development along interstate highways, in suburbs, and satellite cities.

Portland is "an international pioneer in transit orientated developments."

Oregon Route 43 Highway in Oregon

Oregon Route 43 is an Oregon state highway that runs between the cities of Oregon City and Portland, mostly along the western flank of the Willamette River. While it is technically known by the Oregon Department of Transportation as the Oswego Highway No. 3, on maps it is referred to by its route number or by the various street names it has been given.

The Mount Hood Freeway is a partially constructed but never to be completed freeway alignment of U.S. Route 26 and Interstate 80N, which would have run through southeast Portland, Oregon. Related projects would have continued the route through the neighboring suburb of Gresham, out to the city of Sandy.

Harbor Drive

Harbor Drive is a short roadway in Portland, Oregon, functioning mainly as a ramp to and from Interstate 5. It was once much longer, running along the western edge of the Willamette River in the downtown area. Most of the road was replaced with Tom McCall Waterfront Park in the 1970s. Signed as U.S. Route 99W, it had been the major route through the city and its removal is often cited as the first instance of freeway removal in the U.S. and as a milestone in urban planning.

South Waterfront, Portland, Oregon

The South Waterfront is a high-rise district under construction on former brownfield industrial land in the South Portland neighborhood south of downtown Portland, Oregon, U.S. It is one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the United States. It is connected to downtown Portland by the Portland Streetcar and MAX Orange Line, and to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) main campus atop Marquam Hill by the Portland Aerial Tram, as well as roads to Interstate 5 and Oregon Route 43.

Old Town Chinatown Neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, United States

Old Town Chinatown is the official Chinatown of the Northwest section of Portland, Oregon. The Willamette River forms its eastern boundary, separating it from the Lloyd District and the Kerns and Buckman neighborhoods. It includes the Portland Skidmore/Old Town Historic District and the Portland New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been referred to as the "skid row" of Portland.

South Portland is a long, narrow neighborhood just south of Downtown Portland, Oregon, hemmed in between the Willamette River and the West Hills. It stretches from I-405 and the Marquam Bridge on the north, to SW Canby St. and the Sellwood Bridge in the south. The Willamette forms the eastern boundary, and SW Barbur Blvd. most of the western boundary. In addition to Downtown to the north, other bordering neighborhoods are Southwest Hills, Homestead, Hillsdale, and South Burlingame to the west, and Hosford-Abernethy, Brooklyn, and Sellwood-Moreland across the river on the east.

Homestead is a Southwest Portland, Oregon, United States, neighborhood in the city's West Hills. The neighborhood is home to Marquam Nature Park, which offers urban hiking in the form of the Marquam Trail, which one can follow to Downtown. Scenic Terwilliger Boulevard also passes through the neighborhood.

Lloyd District, Portland, Oregon Neighborhood in Portland, Oregon, United States

The Lloyd District is a primarily commercial neighborhood in the North and Northeast sections of Portland, Oregon. It is named after Ralph Lloyd (1875–1953), a California rancher, oilman, and real estate developer who moved to and started the development of the area.

Interstate 5 in Oregon Interstate highway in Oregon

Interstate 5 (I-5) in the U.S. state of Oregon is a major Interstate Highway that traverses the state from north to south. It travels to the west of the Cascade Mountains, connecting Portland to Salem, Eugene, Medford, and other major cities in the Willamette Valley and across the northern Siskiyou Mountains. The highway runs 308 miles (496 km) from the California state line near Ashland to the Washington state line in northern Portland, forming the central part of Interstate 5's route between Mexico and Canada.

Tilikum Crossing Bridge over the Willamette River, Portland, OR, USA

Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People is a cable-stayed bridge across the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, United States. It was designed by TriMet, the Portland metropolitan area's regional transit authority, for its MAX Orange Line light rail passenger trains. The bridge also serves city buses and the Portland Streetcar, as well as bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles. Private cars and trucks are not permitted on the bridge. It is the first major bridge in the U.S. that was designed to allow access to transit vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians but not cars.

NS Line Streetcar route in Portland, Oregon

The North South Line is a streetcar service of the Portland Streetcar system in Portland, Oregon, United States. Operated by Portland Streetcar, Inc. and TriMet, it travels approximately 4.1 miles (6.6 km) per direction from Northwest 23rd & Marshall to Southwest Lowell & Bond and serves 39 stations. The line connects Portland's Northwest District, Pearl District, downtown, Portland State University (PSU), and South Waterfront. It runs every day of the week between 15 and 18 hours per day and operates on headways of 15 to 20 minutes.


RiverPlace is a mixed-use district of Downtown Portland, Oregon. Although not an officially recognized neighborhood, its borders can be considered to be Naito Parkway to the west, the Willamette River to the east, and the Marquam Bridge to the south. The area was brownfield land before it was developed.

Naito Parkway Major thoroughfare in Portland, Oregon, USA

Naito Parkway is a major thoroughfare of Portland in the U.S. state of Oregon. It was formerly known as Front Avenue and Front Street and was renamed in 1996 to honor Bill Naito. It runs between SW Barbur Boulevard and NW Front Avenue, and adjacent to Tom McCall Waterfront Park through Downtown Portland.

Southwest Portland, Oregon

Southwest Portland is one of the sextants of Portland, Oregon.


  1. 1 2 3 "Portland Downtown". PortlandMaps. City of Portland. Retrieved June 15, 2019.
  2. MacColl, E. Kimbark. The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915–1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press. p. 2. ISBN   0-9603408-1-5.
  3. "Beloved and Abandoned: A Platting Named Portland". Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  4. Fogelson, Robert (2003). Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880-1950 (3rd ed.). Yale University Press. p. 395. ISBN   978-0-300-09827-3.
  5. Mesh, Aaron (November 5, 2014). "Feb. 4, 1974: Portland kills the Mount Hood Freeway". Willamette Week . Retrieved November 21, 2014. Every great civilization has an origin story. For modern Portland, it is an exodus from Moses. That’s Robert Moses, the master builder of New York City’s grid of expressways and bridges who brought the Big Apple its car commuters, smog and sprawl. In 1943, the city of Portland hired Moses to design its urban future. Moses charted a highway loop around the city’s core with a web of spur freeways running through neighborhoods. The city and state embraced much of the plan. The loop Moses envisioned became Interstate 405 as it links with I-5 south of downtown and runs north across the Fremont Bridge.
  6. Jackson, Reed (July 16, 2012). "Perceptions of Portland's east side changing". Daily Journal of Commerce . Retrieved 2012-07-23. Before the mid-1990s, development on the east side was sparse; and even then, large construction projects were rare. Between 1990 and 2010, 500,000 more square feet of development took place in downtown than in the east side’s Lloyd District, CEID and Lower Albina area combined, according to data collected by the Bureau of Development Services.
  7. "State of Parking 2015". City of Portland. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  8. Goldberg, Jamie; Rogoway, Mike (May 15, 2021). "Downtown Portland is unsafe and uninviting, residents say in new poll, threatening city's recovery". The Oregonian .
  9. Mesh, Aaron; Jaquiss, Nigel. "Obituaries for Portland Are Premature. But What Will Become of Its Most Important Neighborhood?". Willamette Week. Archived from the original on 2021-02-17. Retrieved 2021-06-02.
  10. "The Water". Portland State University. Archived from the original on October 31, 2006. Retrieved August 28, 2011.
  11. 1 2 Wortman, Sharon Wood; Wortman, Ed (2006). The Portland Bridge Book (3rd ed.). Urban Adventure Press. ISBN   0-9787365-1-6.
  12. "Better have that bus fare today; Fareless Square ends". Portland Tribune . January 4, 2010. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  13. Bailey Jr., Everton (August 30, 2012). "TriMet boosts most fares starting Saturday; some routes changing". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 1, 2012.
  14. "Emporis Building Database". Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-09-02.
  15. "Old Town/Chinatown Summary of Issues and Opportunities". Improving physical connectivity between Old Town and adjacent areas, including Downtown, the Pearl District and Waterfront Park can strengthen the vitality and economic health of the area