23rd November, 2021
Center City in Philadelphia Looks to the Future

Philadelphia apartment residents in Center City have witnessed a shift in their neighborhood since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Philadelphia’s Center City District has been facing severe challenges since March 2020, when people stopped coming downtown to work, shop, eat at restaurants, visit cultural attractions and entertainment venues, and stay at hotels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, the district is now showing signs of resilience, according to the CDD’s State of Center City 2021 report.

By the end of 2020, 25 development projects, representing an estimated $3.4 billion investment, were completed or in progress in Center City, the report states.

Eight hotel projects under construction or proposed in the district will increase the number of hotel rooms downtown by more than 14,000 before the end of this year. 

Despite the pandemic, Center City sustained its residential growth in 2020, according to the report.

However, Philadelphia is still dealing with many economic issues due to the COVID crisis.

“In effect, the pandemic temporarily unraveled much of the work of the last 30 years: the creation of a thriving, mixed-use downtown whose diverse sectors reinforce each other,” stated Paul R. Levy, president of the Central City District, in the introduction to the organization’s 2021 report.

The city lost nearly 15 percent of its jobs between March and April 2020. By February 2021, employment had rebounded by 38,600 jobs but remained 74,800 below the pre-pandemic level.

The most severe losses were in leisure and hospitality, where jobs initially declined by 60%. Transportation and other sectors dependent on face-to-face interaction also suffered.

The commercial office sector was also profoundly disrupted when workers began working from home due to the pandemic. In Center City, office vacancy rates increased by 2.5% between the first and fourth quarters of 2020, while office rental rates increased by 2.2%. Throughout the year, no more than 10% of office employees were working on site.

Some of the measures the Center City District has taken to support the downtown area during the COVID era include:

– Promotion of sidewalk-level businesses that remained open.

– A Restaurant Week in September 2020 to promote outdoor dining and takeout options.

– A #TakeoutPhilly ad campaign to sustain restaurants, especially those unable to invest in heated outdoor seating.

– Socially distanced events in the downtown parks.

Levy said targeted investments in disadvantaged businesses, coupled with wage and business tax reductions, can jump-start post-pandemic growth.

“Growth without equity created a city with huge disparities,” he said. “Investments in equity without growth will leave us a slow-growing city with low business density, lacking family-sustaining jobs, limiting opportunities for greater workforce participation and the expansion of Black- and brown-owned businesses.”

The American Rescue Plan gives Philadelphia a unique opportunity to reposition itself, according to Levy.

“The temporary infusion of federal funds can restore cuts, but also free up resources for permanent and transformational investments that set the city on a path of more expansive and inclusive growth,” he said.

Residents of our Center City apartments look forward to a brighter, happier, and healthier future for all of our residents.

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