Does Philadelphia Have What It Needs to Recover?

This Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation report highlights Philadelphia’s signs of recovery and examines the serious challenges that must be addressed. Distilling the most recent data available from city, state, and national agencies; local organizations and businesses; and CCD’s own in-depth research and analysis, this comprehensive 72-page report makes policy recommendations for the next mayoral administration on how Philadelphia can fully recover from the last three years of disruption and catch up with peer cities in the long-term to grow jobs and create opportunity for all. To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

Center City by the Numbers

307,300 jobs 
In Greater Center City

66% of nonresident workers have returned downtown as of February 2023 

40.5 million sf 
of office space 

40+ outdated office and industrial buildings
 converted to hotel and residential use in the last 25 years

109,000 students
enrolled in higher education institutions near
Center City

203,484 residents 
in Greater Center City

71% of downtown residents
25 years old or over has a bachelor’s degree.

visitors to the Pennsylvania Convention Center in 2022

2.87 million
occupied hotel room nights in 2022.

8.9 million
visitors to Dilworth Park

4th most walkable city
in the U.S.

1.  Employment

Center City Philadelphia is the region’s largest employment center. With 254,100 jobs from Vine Street to Pine Street, and 307,300 from Girard Avenue to Tasker Street, it is among the country’s top 10 densest job centers blended with the nation’s third largest downtown residential population. Offices, hotels, universities, health-care institutions and residential towers support a vibrant retail and restaurant scene. Adjacent neighborhoods host smaller nodes of employment with several thriving commercial corridors. All of these assets position Center City well for full recovery.

  • Home to 43% of jobs in the City, Center City is the densest job center in the region, with transportation access that creates pathways to opportunity for all Philadelphians.
  • 2/3 of all jobs in Center City Philadelphia do not require a college degree.
  • Center City jobs are interdependent; widespread remote and hybrid work has diminished the recovery of service sector jobs.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

2.  Office

Center City’s 40 million square feet of office space provide the densest containers of the most diverse jobs, from high-wage and high-skilled, to moderate wage and entry-level jobs in building services, construction, mechanical systems, janitorial and security. The more higher-skilled workers return to offices more days per week, the more job opportunities for other workers—both within office buildings and in the retail and service establishments supported by office workers.

  • Center City's office sector supports diverse industries contributing to Philadelphia's job restoration.
  • By February 2023, the volume of individuals in Philadelphia’s office district increased to 47% of 2019 totals with peaks throughout 2022 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the 50% to 60% range
  • The Center City office market has a vacant rate of 18.6% as of the fourth quarter of 2022; the average rent is $33.70; both of these represent a modest softening of the market.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

3. Health Care and Education

Health care and higher education provide the largest share of Philadelphia’s jobs. This “eds and meds” sector attracts more than 100,000 college students into the downtown and adjacent areas, provides a pipeline of talent for employers, draws patients and research dollars to the city while supporting technological and medical innovation, life science research and the growth of new industries.

  • Philadelphia's health care and education sectors create a direct pipeline to talent and a diverse downtown work environment.
  • Universities in and around Center City are pioneers for research and developments, receiving over $1 billion in NIH funding and spending $2 billion on R&D expenditures. 
  • Philadelphia is growing in recognition for innovation through life science and venture capital funding.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

4. Housing

Greater Center City has been the fastest growing area of Philadelphia for the last two decades with the population increasing by 39% between 2000 and 2020 to 203,500 residents. Developments in the last three years have capitalized on that trend with 48% of all new Philadelphia housing units in 2022 located downtown and another 27% in the immediately adjacent neighborhoods. Major residential projects completed last year include Riverwalk North at 60 North 23rd Street, One Cathedral Square at 1701 Race Street, and Arthaus at 315 South Broad Street.

  • Greater Center City has been the most rapidly growing area of Philadelphia, with populationgrowth of 39% since 2000.
  • Recent and ongoing development is highly concentrated in and around Center City, with 75% of all new units completed in 2022 located in Greater Center City and adjacent ZIP codes.
  • Center City’s compact, walkable live-work setting, with restaurants, retailers and cultural amenities, continues to attract residents.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

5. Retail

Retail and restaurants are among the most visible signs of the resilience of Center City Philadelphia, benefiting from three decades of diversification from a 9-to-5 office monoculture into a 24-hour downtown animated by tourists, visitors, residents and workers. Rebounding from 2020, more stores and restaurants opened than closed in both 2021 and 2022.

  • Center City has a strong mix of independent and national retailers, restaurants and service providers. Over 2,900 businesses occupy ground floor storefronts.
  • The occupancy rate for ground floor retail is rebounding, increasing to 83% in 2023, slightly below the 2019 levels.
  • 175 retailers have opened a store in Center City since 2020. Digitally native brands have opened brick- and- mortar locations in corridors with high foot traffic.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

new retailers map 23

6. Conventions and Tourism

Sustained investment in the hospitality industry since the early 1990s, including the Pennsylvania Convention Center, tourism destinations around Independence National Historical Park and the expansion of professional marketing organizations have enabled the city to build upon its unique role in American history and its abundance of cultural institutions, expand the number of hotel rooms and support the growth of employment opportunities for Philadelphia residents.

  • In the past six years, Center City added 2,600 hotel rooms.
  • Center City hotels recovered rapidly in 2022, with 2.87 million occupied hotel room nights in 2022 but well-below 2019 levels.
  • The Pennsylvania Convention Center welcomed 552,000 visitors in 2022, projecting growing attendance rates in 2023.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

7. Arts and Culture

Greater Center City is home to 210 arts and cultural institutions. Among major American cities, it offers one of the highest downtown concentrations of museums, theaters, libraries and performing arts companies that provide amenities for Center City and regional residents, draw visitors from around the world and spur economic activity for restaurants, retail, and hotels.

  • Attendance at Center City’s performing arts organizations, museums, and other institutions has rebounded steadily, ranging from 50% to 75% of 2019 levels.
  • Greater Center City Philadelphia has one of the largest concentrations of arts and cultural organizations in the U.S.
  • People can enjoy a variety of amenities in Philadelphia within walking distance, as it is ranked the fourth walkable city in the U.S., according to Redfin

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

8. Transportation

Center City is served by five trolley routes, two subway lines, 29 bus routes, 14 regional rail lines and two interstate highways connecting to neighborhoods across the city and to suburban communities in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The William H. Gray III 30th Street Station is served by 11 Amtrak lines, connecting Philadelphia with business and leisure travelers from the East Coast to the Midwest.

  • Philadelphia is among the leaders in U.S. cities of residents per capita biking to work.
  • Ridership on SEPTA has continued to rebound, hitting its highest levels in two years in November 2022.
  • SEPTA has instituted a number of initiatives to recover ridership.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.

9. Center City District

In 2021 and 2022, with strong support from the business community, and in partnership with public agencies, CCD significantly ramped up on-street public safety efforts: adding a bicycle patrol operating seven days a week, expanding homeless outreach, and developing a routine process of coordination between public safety staff of all city, state and federal law enforcement agencies, transit agencies, and private security in office buildings and businesses.

  • CCD has ramped up public safety efforts with new bike patrols, increased homeless outreach and expanded partnerships with law enforcement, transit and private security in offices and businesses.
  • CCD is keeping its parks active and public spaces clean and attractive, while promoting Center City restaurants, retail and cultural institutions.
  • Serious crime fell 10.6% within CCD boundaries from 2019 to 2022.
  • New initiatives in 2023 will redouble return-to-office efforts.

To learn more, download the full report- State of Center City 2023.