Philadelphia Business Journal: Real Estate: University City on the rise

Friday, October 10, 2014

Natalie Kostelni

There is a plethora of construction activity underway in University City. (I wrote aboutthe construction activity underway in this week's print edition.)

While real estate development is on the rise in the West Philadelphia neighborhood, other positive indicators point to an area of the city that has reversed a trend of decline and is thriving. It’s not glimmers of success, either.

Jobs and employment have risen, population grown, housing stock increased, the number of restaurants and retailers crept up and the amount of office inventory has expanded and maintains an enviable 96 occupancy rate, according to University City’s latest annual report. An abundance of development activity is underway and billions of dollars more will eventually be set in motion. ( Learn more here.)

While data reveal how well University City is doing these days, there is still work to be done, said Matt Bergheiser, executive director of University City District, or UCD.

UCD continues to work on the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, which connects residents with nearby employers. So far, it has placed more than 125 people in jobs. “The skills initiative has been growing gangbusters,” Bergheiser said.

UCD is also evaluating some of its placemaking efforts to see what can be improved and expanded along the eastern edge of the neighborhood. It is looking at seizing on some ignored spots, such as bridges, that could be enhanced in some fashion.

The Porch is an example of a successful gathering spot next to 30 th Street Station that is programmed with events and spearheaded by UCD. The space will get a revamp. One of its long-talked about projects will finally get underway. The organization has raised $2 million for the construction of the 40 th Street Trolley Portal.

“You have this great neighborhood and you have a half-acre site that is just dead where the neighborhood ends,” Bergheiser said. Work will begin next year on changing that.