Key Takeaways from the State of Center City

“Philadelphia is a city with extraordinary assets, amenities and advantages… But only committed, proactive private and public leadership will enable the city to realize its full potential,” noted Center City District President Paul Levy in his cover essay in the State of Center City Philadelphia 2023 report. 

This year’s State of Center City highlights the upcoming opportunities – and potential challenges – facing the city and the next mayor. Check out nine key data points from this year’s report, and be sure to read the full 72-page report for the full story.



Center City has steadily remained at approximately 40 million square feet of office space. And, despite narratives about the “death” of the office sector due to work-from-home, major transactions are still occurring in Center City, such as Chubb’s relocation to a 438,000 square foot tower on Arch Street and Cash App’s new lease of 35,000 square feet of office space in East Market. Read more in our chapter on the office sector.

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In order to get to Center City, whether to work in these offices or to enjoy the unique mix of retailers, restaurants and service providers, over 3.2 million Philadelphians used one of SEPTA’s modes of transportation. While this is only 55% of pre-pandemic levels, Philadelphia is still notable for having more residents who use transit than cities with similar levels of non-auto commuting. Read more in our chapter on transportation.



One game-changing decision in Center City was the establishment of a bustling convention center right in the heart of Philadelphia’s diverse, walkable downtown. In 2022, the Pennsylvania Convention Center welcomed 552,000 visitors, and projects attendance to reach more than 1 million in 2023. These events also contribute to the 2.87 million hotel rooms occupied in 2022. Read more in our chapter on conventions and tourism.

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From Girard Avenue to Tasker Street, Center City Philadelphia is home to over 307,000 jobs, making it one of the nation’s top 10 most dense job centers and the sixth highest in terms of downtown job density among the 25 largest cities, at approximately 177 jobs per acre. Additionally, 43% of all Philadelphia jobs are located in the Greater Center City area, ranging from public administration and information to construction and leisure. Read more in our chapter on employment.



In and around Center City, 14 higher education institutions granted more than 31,500 degrees to some of the over 109,000 students who study in the downtown’s area. Approximately 51% of those degrees were granted in health science and STEM programs. These universities and health care institutions additionally accounted for the region’s rapidly expanding research and development and venture capital investments, with over $1.2 billion of National Institutes of Health funding secured in 2021, $2.2 billion spent on research and development, and 554 venture capital deals generating $5.6 billion in investments in the region. Read more in our chapter on health care and higher education.

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In Greater Center City and adjacent neighborhoods, over 75% of Philadelphia’s new residential construction was completed, totaling approximately 4,393 units in 2022. This, combined with a net absorption rate that has increased by over 5,100 units(?) over the past two years and an increase in rent according to the Zillow Observed Rate Index, show the continued demand for downtown living. Read more in our chapter on housing. 



One of the major draws for Center City residents is the presence of 210 arts and culture institutions, ranking Philadelphia second among major U.S. downtowns. Jobs in this sector have recovered to just 7% below 2019 numbers, while visitation at Center City’s cultural venues ranges from 50% to 75% of 2019 traffic. Read more in our chapter on arts and culture.

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Since 2020, over 175 new retail, restaurants, and service-oriented businesses have added to the over 2,900 businesses occupying ground floor storefronts across Center City. As discussed in our Center City Retail report from November 2022, many of these “clicks to bricks” retailers, like Allbirds and Gorjana, have opened downtown. By the beginning of 2023, occupancy has increased to 83%, which is only slightly below 2019 levels. Read more in our chapter on retail.



Serious crime is down 10.6% compared to 2019. This comes after ramped up efforts in 2021 and 2022 around on-street safety, including increased coordination with city, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, transit agencies, and private security in office buildings. Additional efforts by CCD include new bike patrol officers, the continued on-street presence of our Community Service Representatives, and homeless outreach work. Read more in our chapter on Center City District.

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Much More Than 9 Points

Together, these data points only tell part of the story of Center City, and are just the start of a longer discussion for the future of the downtown. For the fuller narrative, download our recently released 72-page report, State of Center City Philadelphia 2023.  

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