Growth in Center City defies economic downturn

The diversification of the downtown economy during the last two decades has helped the housing market in Center City weather recession, according to a new report released by the Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation.

Home values citywide are currently only 7 percent below the market’s peak in 2006, while housing prices in New York City are 21 percent lower and in Washington, D.C., they have plummeted 27 percent. Rental vacancies in Center City are almost nonexistent.

Since last year, the volume of houses sold downtown has increased, while the number of days that units remain on the market before sale has gone down. While prices have decreased, they have done so throughout the downtown by only 5.1% and by only 1.4% in the CBD. This is largely because the employment sectors in which Center City is strong – professional and business services, health care and education — have been far less affected by the recession than other industries.

Downtown offices have a 4 percent higher occupancy rate than the Pennsylvania suburbs; while education and health care jobs have actually expanded by 3 percent in the last two years. More than 40 percent of working residents of downtown neighborhoods between Girard and Washington Avenues commute to jobs in Center City, the study reports. More than a third of these individuals walk to work and another 25 percent use public transportation.

The car-free commute not only makes living downtown more appealing, it means Center City residents spend less than their suburban counterparts on this basic household expense. The report notes that the number of adults with college degrees in Center City continues to climb.

Today, 60 percent of downtown residents have a least a bachelor’s degree and almost one-third have an advanced degree. Nationally the unemployment rate among individuals with bachelor’s and advanced degrees is one-third the overall national rate – another factor that contributes to Center City’s residential stability.

“Center City’s remarkable ability to hold value and even thrive during these challenging economic times grows out of its core strengths: a diverse economic base, a walkable downtown and a broad range of dining and cultural amenities,” said Paul R. Levy, President and CEO of the Center City District. “People are eager to live and work in Center City and that is why new housing is still being constructed and sold in neighborhoods throughout the downtown.”

To read the entire report, please go to the Center City District’s website,, and download “Residential Development 2010: Diversification Pays Dividends.”

The Center City District, a private-sector sponsored business improvement district 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.

Linda K. Harris Director of Communications and Publications Center City District

Public Ledger Building 660 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA  19106

Phone:  215.440.5546

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal