press release

State of Center City 2024: Shaping the Future We Want

Contact:  JoAnn Loviglio
T 215.440.5546


Center City District report examines how downtown Philadelphia’s social and economic systems have evolved amid the profound challenges of the past four years

PHILADELPHIA (May 1, 2024) – Today at the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation’s (CPDC) quarterly meeting, Center City District (CCD) released State of Center City 2024, an annual data-driven overview, organized by sector, that examines the latest trends both in Center City and the broader Philadelphia economy.

Distilling the most recent data available from city, state, and federal agencies; local organizations and businesses; and CCD’s own surveys, pedestrian counts, research and analysis, this comprehensive 96-page report examines the key drivers of downtown vitality and investment – new housing, return to the office, retail, employment, arts and culture, transportation, health care and higher education, and travel and tourism.

“The CCD team is pleased to present this year’s edition of State of Center City,” CCD President and CEO Prema Katari Gupta said. “This annual report is created to serve as a compendium of the latest local trends and a conversation starter about how to encourage and amplify the factors that are necessary to sustain the strength of Center City and Philadelphia.”

A glance at some key Center City metrics in the report:

  • 84% of total pedestrian volume has returned, compared to 2019 levels
  • 70% of non-resident workers have returned to work downtown as of the end of 2023
  • 2,844 new housing units were completed in 2023
  • 235 new retailers have opened since 2020
  • 84.5% of storefronts were occupies as of September 2023
  • 62% of downtown jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree
  • 80% of residents 25 and older have graduated from college

State of Center City 2024 begins with an overview of CCD’s mission of creating a positive downtown presence through its cleaners, Community Service Representatives, homeless outreach, business support and attraction, landscaping and park beautification, and events to create welcoming and active public spaces.

The chapter also notes that while serious crime within CCD’s boundaries was down 17.6% in 2023 compared to 2019, there is significant work to do on addressing negative perceptions of downtown safety along with the very real quality-of-life challenges that make residents, workers and visitors feel unsafe – from panhandlers and racing ATVs to untended dumpsters.

The second chapter on employment notes that Philadelphia ranks sixth among the largest 25 U.S. cities in the return of non-resident workers to their offices and the number of jobs citywide has surpassed 2019 levels. Greater Center City is home to nearly 280,000 jobs – 43% of the city’s total – of which two-thirds do not require a college degree.

Subsequent chapters of the report document the vitality of major economic sectors including arts and cultural institutions, which saw overall attendance up 9% from 2022 to 2023, and tourist visitation, which grew in 2023 to 25.8 million. While public transportation use in Philadelphia, like other big cities, has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, overall SEPTA usage rose 20% from 2022 to 2023, with bus ridership climbing nearly 40% year-over-year.

Among the most notable bright spots is the continued vigor of the housing market in Greater Center City, which has been the fastest growing residential area in Philadelphia for two decades and now is home to over 200,000 people. Despite being less than 6% of Philadelphia’s land area, Greater Center City accounted for 37% of the city’s total supply of new housing units in 2023.

“Philadelphia leads large U.S. cities in the share of its downtown workforce that lives within just a couple miles of their jobs,” VP of Economic Development Clint Randall noted. “This ongoing concentration of young talent reduces the friction so many feel around commuting and sets up a virtuous cycle for the coming years: the more housing booms in and around Center City, the more appealing our downtown becomes as an employment destination.”

Center City’s sustained population growth, along with the return of downtown visitors and non-residential office workers, are contributing factors to rising retail occupancy – currently at 85% and closing in on the 2019 occupancy level of 89%. In 2023, 80 retail leases were signed in Center City – surpassing the 77 leases signed in 2019 and driven by “clicks-to-bricks” digitally native brands and grocery stores.

While the office sector is experiencing a period of disruption largely due to hybrid work patterns sparked by the pandemic, Center City’s office occupancy is around 82%, a relatively stable rate among U.S. downtowns and second highest after Manhattan. However, the nearly 4 million square feet of empty office space added to the market since the pandemic is a clear signal that Philadelphia needs to identify creative new solutions to repurpose obsolete office inventory, encourage the return to office and foster continued growth of the downtown residential population.

State of Center City 2024 was created to serve as a useful and enjoyable resource, and is a clear reflection of CCD’s organizational obsession with analytical rigor and optimism firmly rooted in data,” Gupta said. “Perhaps it’s time to stop talking about ‘recovery’ and instead work to conjure the downtown that we want and that our city needs. We can continue to will our cities to resume the patterns of the last decade, or we can learn from unanticipated strengths and exposed vulnerabilities, and build a downtown that is more competitive, connected, livable, equitable, joyful, resilient and inclusive.”

To read the 96-page State of Center City report, visit

In The News


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 Through public space management, streetscape improvements, and economic development initiatives, CCD plays a pivotal role in shaping the urban experience for residents, businesses, and visitors.