Downtown Vitality: A Deeper Look Into Office Trends

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Pedestrian activity in Center City has continued its gradual two-year upward trend, buoyed by a substantial ongoing increase in downtown residents as well as the return of visitors and a slower but notable return of office workers, according to a new report from Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CCD/CPDC).

The report, Downtown Vitality: A Deeper Look Into Office Trends, has a twofold objective: It analyzes current pedestrian levels based on the latest anonymized cellphone data and CCD’s on-street sensors, and it provides added context on the office sector from a CCD survey conducted last month of Center City and University City companies and organizations.

Center City pedestrian volumes rebounded to 79% of February 2020 levels with more residents living downtown now than in 2019. Visitors were at 75% of 2019 levels and at 90% on weekends. Office workers were at 56%, slightly down from March 2023 and largely due to the Easter and Passover holidays. But the number of non-resident workers present in the last two non-holiday weeks of April 2023 was slightly higher than the last two weeks of March 2023 and overall, April 2023 worker levels were 14% higher than April 2022. This is part of a two-year, slow but steady process of returning to work in Center City.

The slow rate of worker return is a pattern similar to most major U.S. cities, though Philadelphia had a higher rate of return than about half of the largest U.S. cities at the end of 2022.  But this slow process has prompted a national dialogue about the future of work and about offices with concerns heightened by rising interest rates and signs of an economic downturn in several sectors.

To better understand factors behind these trends among the business, professional, technology and financial services firms that occupy office buildings in downtown Philadelphia, CCD distributed an electronic survey to 250 companies or organizations located in Center City or University City. The Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA) also circulated the survey to their members. Sixty-five firms responded to the survey, which ran April 10-28.

For full details on the survey and pedestrian trends and what employers and building owners can do, download the new 8-page report, Downtown Vitality: A Deeper Look Into Office Trends.

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