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PSU Study Finds Race Divides NE Alberta Street Businesses
Author: Angela D. Abel, Office of University Communications, 503-725-8794
Posted: December 27, 2006

A new study examining attitudes of businesses and organizations on Northeast Alberta Street finds that although most respondents feel that the northeast Portland neighborhood is a good place to run a business, black respondents cited more problems.

Northeast Alberta Street and the Alberta residential area have undergone a dramatic transformation since the mid- to late-1990s, including tremendous growth in the overall number of businesses, especially restaurants, coffee houses, specialty shops and businesses and organizations related to art. Many of the new businesses are owned and operated by whites and serve a largely white clientele, which reflects the changing racial demographics of the neighborhood.

A study conducted in May 2005 by PSU Sociology Professor Daniel Sullivan and Portland State students interviewed businesses and organizations to find how they feel about Northeast Alberta Street and the changes taking place. The researchers found that black respondents, respondents with a mostly black clientele and blacks operating non-profits perceive that there are more problems facing Northeast Alberta Street. Sixty-four percent of black respondents state that “police not caring” is a problem compared to only 28 percent of other respondents. Also, 79 percent of black respondents perceive “tension between different racial and ethnic groups” as a problem, compared with only 45 percent of respondents of other races.

Vandalism and graffiti is by far the biggest problems of Northeast Alberta Street, according to 90 percent of businesses and organizations, with trash in the streets as the second biggest problem. “Gangs” and “police not caring” were the least frequently cited, and mainly by black respondents. Sixty percent rated “affordability” as a problem; 33 percent ranked it as a “serious problem.”

Overall, half of the respondents interviewed feel Northeast Alberta Street is a good place to operate a business or organization with a quarter thinking of it as an excellent place. Respondents who feel vulnerable to displacement were less likely to view the street positively.

With changes that have incurred over the past five years, 83 percent of respondents feel that the changes have made the street better, with a majority liking that there are more businesses, more renovated and new buildings, and that overall there are more people living in the neighborhood and more customers visiting Alberta Street. Changes people do not like include rising rents and declining diversity.

The term “Alberta Arts,” allegedly created by a real estate agent about five or six years ago, is used widely by businesses, real estate agents and the Art on Alberta organization. Half of the respondents feel that is an accurate term with 69 percent of respondents engaging in some form of artistic expression, including the exhibition of art, selling art, producing art themselves, or advertising for artists and galleries.

During the Last Thursday event every month, 86 percent of businesses and organizations are open, with 62 percent doing “something special.” Two-thirds of respondents view Last Thursday positively, citing that the event is good for business, businesses and good for the neighborhood. Many feel that Last Thursday illustrates what the neighborhood has accomplished in the past five years, while others enjoy the fun, festive atmosphere. Renters are more likely to view Last Thursday positively than owners, and again black respondents are half as likely to view it positively. Problems with Last Thursday include feeling it is too crowded, not liking the overall atmosphere and some resent the presence of sidewalk vendors.

Looking toward the next five years, 86 percent of respondents are optimistic that Northeast Alberta Street will continue to improve and get better. The continuation of only small, independent businesses, rather than large companies or chain stores, and wanting the street to retain its diversity were the two most-cited desires. Ideally, over the next five years, respondents said they would like more development and also rent control, more artists and/or artist-owned businesses, more diversity and additional parking.

In 2004 Sullivan conducted his first study on Northeast Alberta Street, which examined attitudes and actions among the residents of the neighborhood concerning changes that occurred from 1990 to 2000, and then from 2000 to 2004. Some changes included more home-owners, higher house median price, lower poverty rate, more residents with college degrees and less African Americans in the residential population. Electronic copies of the report are available as an Adobe PDF document at

Methodology and distribution of the report:
Conducted in May 2005, 11 students from Portland State University interviewed 88 businesses and organizations on Northeast Alberta Street. The neighborhood boundaries were formed by Northeast Killingsworth, Northeast 33rd , Northeast Prescott and Northeast 15th Avenues. Interviewers attempted to contact all businesses and organizations, and received a 92-percent response rate. Electronic copies of the report are available as an Adobe PDF document at

Members of the media interested in speaking with Daniel Sullivan can reach him at

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Source: Daniel Sullivan (503-725-3954)
PSU Department of Sociology