Center City Digest, Spring 2022

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This edition of the CCD and CPDC quarterly newsletter includes an overview of what CCD is doing, what else needs to be done and how you can help us restore all jobs and vitality. Also included: CCD’s 2022 Budget Details, Parks & Public Spaces, Outreach & Public Safety, CPDC's new Executive Director, photos from CCD’s Annual Employee Breakfast, CCD/CPDC Reports and events planned for Spring & Summer in Center City.

To view the full newsletter, download- Center City Digest, Spring 2022.

Center City is on the path to recovery. Sidewalks are once again animated with people, attaining 80% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of March. Parks are filled with children and people of all ages. One hundred and fourteen retailers and restaurants opened in 2020 and 2021; 51 more have or will open this year, bringing occupancy levels back to 80%. Arts and entertainment venues have reopened. Conventions, trade shows and leisure travelers have returned, filling hotel rooms and supporting restaurants. By the end of March, the number of non-resident workers back in their offices and walking on sidewalks had reached 51%. All these indicators are tracked in our monthly recovery reports.

But as the pandemic recedes, Philadelphia is rebounding more slowly than the region and nation. While our job loss is concentrated in lower-wage positions, professional, financial, educational and business services employment has also contracted. The absence of professionals, the reluctance of some to come back to their offices, could result in the permanent loss of many building maintenance, transportation, retail and service jobs that rely on face-to-face interaction. Diminished on-street vitality can also weaken the appeal of Center City living.

You can help us do more to accelerate Philadelphia’s recovery, to bring back jobs and restore a sense of safety and vibrancy to our streets. Hybrid work may be the norm for some for a while. But we must make Center City attractive to those eager to return to offices, cultural institutions and restaurants by addressing public safety concerns, quality of life challenges and self-inflicted barriers to competitiveness.

For the last two years, CCD kept all 148 of our on-street team members fully deployed, removing litter and graffiti, enhancing safety, providing directions and first aid. Our marketing teams promoted restaurants and retail, assisting with outdoor cafes. Four seasonal CCD Restaurant Week promotions provided a lifeline to challenged businesses. Center City District Sips is returning in June.

CCD animated Dilworth Park and Sister Cities Park with 80 arts, cultural and educational programs in partnership with local institutions; we offered ice skating, roller skating and stunning holiday light shows – all of which drew visitors from every ZIP code in the city.

We expanded our homeless outreach partnership with Project HOME, helping 140 people come off the street last year. We upgraded landscaping on West Walnut Street and now deploy a uniformed, unarmed bike patrol throughout the downtown in close coordination with the Philadelphia Police, who have enhanced their foot patrol beats in Center City. In April we added a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. bike shift for greater visibility during the evening rush hour and to provide additional coverage in entertainment areas and restaurant districts.

Many of these initiatives were made possible by generous contributions to the Center City District Foundation, supplementing programs funded by CCD assessments. While CCD can’t replace all municipal services diminished by the pandemic and related fiscal challenges, you can help do more to accelerate recovery

CCD also has several new physical enhancements in the pipeline, including:

  • Landscaping bike lanes and sidewalks in the office district from 15th to 20th streets
  • Enhancing the derelict entrance to Suburban Station on 16th Street in partnership with SEPTA
  • Adding new outdoor amenities on Jewelers Row
  • Creating a permanent, yearlong lighting of the entire west façade of City Hall at Dilworth Park, expanding upon the successful holiday programming of the last four years.

You can choose to support existing programs that enhance safety, help the homeless come off the streets and connect with services, improve landscaping and expand programming in our parks. Or you can support new initiatives that will improve public spaces and raise our spirits to new levels.

Recovery won’t happen on its own. But with your support, we can overcome challenges, restore vitality and safety on Center City sidewalks, connect those in need to shelter and services, animate our parks and restore jobs and opportunity for all Philadelphians.

Thirty-one years ago, we faced similar daunting challenges. But today we have many more positive assets and amenities to reactivate. We simply need the will, resources and leadership to do it again.

Please join us in the effort to accelerate Philadelphia's recovery.

Paul R. Levy