Key Takeaways from The State of Center City 2024

“Perhaps it’s time to stop talking about 'recovery' and instead work to conjure the downtown that we want and that our city needs,” shared Center City District CEO Prema Katari Gupta in her cover essay in the State of Center City Philadelphia 2024 report. 

This year’s State of Center City shares an overview of the latest trends in the broader Philadelphia economy and Center City, organized by sector. Below, check out nine of the stories that you won’t want to miss, or download the full report here.  

Chapter 1: Center City District 

84% of total pedestrian volume has returned to Center City compared to 2019 levels. 

Continuously increasing pedestrian volumes can be attributed partially to the positive influence of initiatives that aim to maintain the original mission of keeping Center City clean and safe. In the past year, serious crime within CCD boundaries decreased by 17.6% from pre-pandemic levels. Center City is beyond the road to recovery between CCD’s on-street operations, parks programming, and more. Just since the report’s publication, pedestrian volumes have crept up another percentage point to 85% of 2019 levels.  

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Chapter 2: Employment  

Those living within 2 miles have returned to the office at rates above 90%.  

Center City has a high concentration of jobs, which attract skilled workers from the surrounding areas. In addition, Philadelphia has the highest percentage of downtown employees living within a two-mile radius. This trend fuels the current housing boom in Greater Center City, which in turn serves as a growth strategy for employment. When more people live in or can easily access the downtown area, it becomes more attractive for companies of all types to establish themselves here. This, in turn, will lead to the growth of support and ancillary businesses. 

Chapter 3: Office  

82% occupancy in Center City offices 

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While speculative office construction is undergoing a lull nationwide, employers have a renewed sense of optimism as they focus on building new, modern, enjoyable workspaces that will serve their employees as they return to work in Center City. Insomnia Cookies’ new innovative space includes brand-new offices for the entire company alongside experiential retail on the ground floor. Other examples of thriving workspaces include 2222 Market Street, the 19-story building occupied by Morgan Lewis, and 2000 Arch Street, the 18-floor headquarters that CHUBB will occupy upon its completion in 2026.  

Chapter 4: Housing 

201,439 full-time residents in Greater Center City 

Since 1997, many developers have taken and are continuing to take advantage of the 10-year tax abatement that has made Philadelphia a national leader in residential conversions. For example, Lubert-Adler is converting office space in The Bellevue to include 200 units and renovating the hotel and retail space, while Alterra Property Group plans to convert 1701 Market Street into 299 apartment units. Most of the city’s new construction apartment projects have substantial ground-floor retail spaces, allowing national grocery store chains and other businesses to occupy space in new developments to serve the area’s growing population. With more than 200,000 people living between the two rivers and Girard Avenue and Tasker Street, one in eight Philadelphians now resides in Greater Center City.  

Chapter 5: Health Care & Education 

$600 million in venture capital funding deals distributed in 2023  

Despite a nationwide decline in venture capital (VC) funding across the United States, Philadelphia ranked eighth in the nation in terms of VC funding, with a total of $600 million distributed, and sixth in the number of deals made, with 102. Most of the venture capital funding in Philadelphia was directed towards its thriving life sciences sector. 


Chapter 6: Retail 

Occupancy is up to 85% 

Walnut Street along Rittenhouse Square is the premier destination for new-generation retailers establishing a presence in Philadelphia. Digitally native brands such as Brooklinen and Warby Parker were among the first “clicks to bricks” brands to lease space in Center City, starting a trend of brands that were established exclusively online at first and later developing into brick-and-mortar retail. A bevy of entertainment concepts are diversifying and animating the area further, including Puttshack, Flight Club, Barcade, and others.  

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Chapter 7: Convention and Tourism  

144 Convention Center events  

The hospitality industry in Center City remains a strong pillar of the local economy. The Pennsylvania Convention Center welcomed more than 860,000 attendees, 185,000 of whom attended their biggest annual event, the Philadelphia Flower Show. The many citywide events resulted in a total of $646 million in hotel revenue, a 13.5% increase from 2022. The high density of downtown makes it very convenient for visitors to travel from their hotels to conventions, events, and tourist destinations.

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Chapter 8: Arts and Culture 

53,000 attendees in December, setting a new attendance record for the Philadelphia Ballet 

In December 2023, the Philadelphia Ballet broke all historical attendance records for its annual presentation of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the Academy of Music. Most attendees to performances of The Nutcracker traveled from outside the city, with 37% coming from nearby counties in the Philadelphia region, and 31% coming from even farther outside of the region. 

Chapter 9: Transportation 

42% of total employees choose walking as their primary mode of getting to work  

Philadelphia ranks high in its share of commuters who use methods other than a car to get to work. Compared to 2022, Philadelphia now ranks ahead of Chicago and Seattle in level of non-auto commuting. Philadelphia is an extremely walkable and accessible city, especially in Center City. 

Much More Than 9 Points 

These key takeaways only scratch the surface of the past year in Center City, and these stories are just the beginning of a more in-depth conversation about the future of Philadelphia’s downtown. For a more comprehensive understanding, download our recently published 96-page report, State of Center City Philadelphia 2024

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