Housing in Center City: A Recap of the February 2024 CPDC Meeting

In the 2024 iteration of our annual Center City Housing Report, Center City District (CCD) and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC) point out that despite accounting for only 5.8% of the city’s land area, Greater Center City—defined as Girard Avenue to Tasker Street, river to river—accounted for 37% of the city’s total supply of new housing units in 2023.  

To provide commentary and context for the report, CPDC hosted a quarterly membership meeting, featuring an introduction by CPDC Executive Director Prema Katari Gupta, a report overview by report writer and CCD Economic Development Manager Lauren Smith, and a discussion featuring: 

  • Bryan Oos, the Regional Director of Acquisitions and Development for Toll Brothers Apartment Living; 

  • Briana Wilkins, the Vice President, Development for Parkway Corporation; 

  • Gianni Parente, the Regional Investment Officer at EQT Exeter; and 

  • Moderated by Matthew N. McClure, Partner at Ballard Spahr LLP. 

Read along for some key takeaways from the report and learn more about how your organization can become a member of CPDC


Who Lives in Greater Center City?

Over the past 10 years, Greater Center City’s population has increased by 26% and has grown into a 24-hour downtown that is a place to live, work, and play. Since the start of the pandemic, the population has increased by 3%. Fifty-three percent of Greater Center City residents are 22-34 years old, and over 80% have a college degree.  

Unlike other areas of the city, about half of households do not own a car, thanks to Center City’s density, convenient access to public transit, and highly walkable neighborhoods. 

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The Myth of Oversupply  

Contrary to some media narratives questioning whether there is enough demand for the growing number of residential units in the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, the Center City Housing Report points out that data from shows the number of people who are moving into Greater Center City continues to markedly exceed those moving out.  

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CPDC panelist Wilkins noted that Parkway’s latest property, the Amble in Old City, opened in July and was 90% leased by September 1 and that the new One Cathedral Square on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, was similarly successful in filling approximately 95% of its 271 units.  

Many of the new projects are in well-established residential areas with vibrant restaurant and retail scenes such as Rittenhouse Square and Old City, and Fishtown. Other areas with expanding residential bases, such as the easternmost blocks of Spring Garden Street and on South Broad Street, are evolving with new businesses to serve their growing populations. 


Focusing on the Basics

In the panel conversation, there was a broad discussion on Center City’s strong base of retailers like large-format grocery stores and “clicks-to-bricks" brands — categories that are essential in supporting a growing residential base — as well as a need for other types of retailers, including convenience stores and sporting goods stores. 

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Additionally, the panelists noted the importance of continued investment in downtown amenities and public spaces. From dog parks to running trails, continued investment in the public environment enhances the quality of life for residents, as well as workers and visitors. Meeting attendees said they were pleased that Mayor Cherelle Parker has stated her administration’s top priority is ensuring that Philadelphia is “safer, cleaner and greener” than ever. 

As Wilkins noted, “You can't fill these apartments if people don't want to move here. ...  We're really excited by the new administration and what Mayor (Cherelle) Parker's already doing and the people she's putting into place.” 

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More Than Just a Midpoint 

While Philadelphia’s geography allows for convenient access to New York and Washington, the city’s strengths are far greater than its location. Panelists touted Center City’s walkability, affordability, accessibility to a wealth of arts and culture organizations, and a nationally renowned culinary scene. 

These qualities keep Center City active and attractive, as migration data reveals that other parts of Pennsylvania and New York are the largest sources of people moving to Greater Center City. Continued investments in the city’s infrastructure and businesses will keep Philadelphia competitive on a national scale.  

How You Can Get Involved with CPDC 

Interested in hearing the perspectives of other business leaders? Learn how you can become a member of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation and attend our member-only panels.