press release

Center City Retail Update: July 2023

JoAnn Loviglio
T 215.440.5546


Center City District report finds continued momentum in the downtown retail sector, with more business openings, population growth, foot traffic and returning workers

PHILADELPHIA (July 10, 2023) — Center City's retail occupancy rates, pedestrian volumes, retail sales and jobs are rising and approaching levels last seen in 2019, according to Center City Retail Update: July 2023, a new report released by the Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CCD/CPDC).

“Center City Philadelphia boasts dense, diverse and walkable land-use patterns, an appealing blend of historic and modern architecture, and unparalleled public transit access,” CCD President Paul R. Levy said. “These factors have made Center City one of the most resilient and sustainable downtowns in North America, and the data in our latest retail report illustrate the positive momentum continuing downtown.”

Incorporating results of CCD on-street surveys, data on pedestrian volumes, conversations with brokers and retailers, and statistics from a variety of city, state and federal sources, the report’s key findings include:

  • Retail occupancy in core Center City in June 2023 rebounded to 82%, from a low of 55% in June 2020, and is approaching the 2019 occupancy level of 89%.
  • Even with indoor dining fully restored, demand for outdoor restaurant seating remains high, with sidewalk café seating up 14% since 2022.
  • Non-resident workers have returned to 61% of May 2019 levels; visitor traffic is at 75% of May 2019 levels, 92% on weekends and overall pedestrian volume has reached 94% on weekends.
  • Greater Center City’s population has grown by 27.3% since 2010, while population in the downtown core has grown even faster, at 31.5%.
  • At least 26 businesses have planned 2023 openings. Brokers report sustained leasing momentum.
  • Taxable retail sales for the first quarter of 2023 in core Center City are at 97% of 2019 levels; bars and restaurants are at 95% of 2019 levels.

 “The downtown retail sector benefits markedly as more workers return to the office — and for more days per week,” Levy said. “CCD has developed a broad range of initiatives to encourage the return to office, from increased public safety deployment, to lobby and plaza activation events in partnership with building owners and recurring promotions like Center City District Sips and Restaurant Week.”

The report notes that in 2019, 89% of storefronts within CCD boundaries were occupied. Due to the mandated shutdown of the economy, stay-at-home directives and civil unrest, the occupancy rate in June 2020 briefly fell to 55%. By June 2023, the steady process of recovery and new openings increased the District’s occupancy rate to 82% -- the highest point in the last three years. Center City could approach 2019 occupancy levels by the end of 2023, assuming there are no major national economic downturns in the coming months.

Additionally, sidewalk and on-street seating provided a lifeline for restaurants throughout 2020 and 2021 in Center City, which has long enjoyed abundant outdoor dining options. The number of outdoor seats peaked in 2021 at the height of the pandemic but even as restrictions have fully lifted, demand for al fresco dining persists throughout Center City.

The combined average daily volume of workers, residents, visitors and students in Center City at the end of May reached 339,393 — 75% of 2019 levels, according to data. Shoppers, tourists and visitors were also at 75% of May 2019 levels on weekdays and at 92% on weekends, and the amount of downtown resident pedestrian volume currently stands at 113% of 2019 levels as Center City’s resident population continues to grow and the overall number of downtown jobs is set to surpass 2019 by the end of this year.

Using quarterly data from 2019 as the baseline, taxable retail sales in core Center City during the first quarter of 2023 are at 94% of 2019 levels, while bars and restaurants are at 97% of 2019 levels. By comparison, sales in the neighborhoods immediately bordering Center City (from Vine Street to Girard Avenue and from Pine Street to Tasker Street) have reached or exceeded 2019 levels since the third quarter of 2020 due to increased demand from those working from home. This contrast will change as larger numbers of employees return to Center City, and more residents continue moving into the urban core.

Visit to download the 15-page report, Center City Retail Update: July 2023, featuring a narrative of current trends and the outlook for 2023; charts on pedestrian trends, population growth and tax collections; and maps and listings of new and upcoming retailers.

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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