Press release

Increased Demand, Growing Population Fuel $1 Billion in Demand For Downtown Retail

Linda K. Harris

PHILADELPHIA (December 5, 2016) – Center City’s 24-hour vibrancy is created by 185,000 residents, 300,000 workers, 3.1 million occupied hotel room nights and more than 117,000 college students in or immediately adjacent to Philadelphia’s downtown. Together they generate more than $1 billion in annual retail demand, according to a new report released today by the Center City District and Central Philadelphia Development Corporation.

While Center City continues to serve citywide and regional shopping needs, the significant growth in downtown’s population has substantially augmented retail demand. The number of downtown residents has increased 17% since 2000, and millennials entering their peak consumer-spending years represent 40% of this population. Empty-nesters migrating from the suburbs have also positively enhanced retail demand.

Philadelphia’s downtown has the second largest residential population in the country and generates significant foot traffic on Center City retail streets. More than 36,000 pedestrians crossed the intersection of 16th and Chestnut Streets on Fridays during autumn.

In the core of Center City, 77% of the residents hold at least a bachelor’s degree and household incomes average more than $111,000. Center City’s expanding affluent and highly educated population, along with a growth in tourism, has attracted more than 45 national retailers since 2013. These new popular brands augment the strong base of local boutiques and independents that create 77% of Center City’s tenant mix.

Workers, residents, students and visitors help support 1,049 retailers including 235 apparel stores, 173 jewelry stores, 144 food and drink retailers, and 123 home and garden establishments. Center City’s 1,006 food establishments include 464 full-service restaurants and 322 takeout establishments.

Increased demand has also caused retail rents in Center City to rise more than in most peer cities, growing faster than all but Miami’s. Center City’s density, diversity and accessibility offer opportunities for retailers seeking to capitalize on changing preferences that are now favoring urban cores in America. Currently, local and national developers are investing $8.5 billion in major projects that are underway or planned for completion within the downtown by 2019. More than 2 million square feet are dedicated to retail as older shopping streets are being redeveloped and Philadelphia’s prime retail district, formerly centered on Walnut Street, continues to expand to West Chestnut and east of Broad on Chestnut and Market Streets.

To download the 24-page report, Center City Reports: Philadelphia Retail, please click here


The Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions. Find us at and on Facebook and Twitter.