Report highlights University City as neighborhood on the rise

Monday, October 20, 2014

While construction and overhead cranes have taken over campus this past year, a University City District report says this means that the neighborhood is thriving more than ever.

Over the past five years, more than $4.6 billion has been invested in real estate development, with over 2,000 new housing units anticipated by the end of 2016, according to UCD’s “State of University City” report released on Wednesday. As the office occupancy rate rose to 96 percent this year, University City is expected to have over 7,000 new jobs by 2016. The number of restaurants — up by 17 percent since 2009 — has also increased with the residential and office growth.

The recent wave of investment has created “an unprecedented feeling of momentum for the neighborhood,” UCD’s Policy and Research Manager Seth Budick said . “We hope to create a quality of life that supports the investments that are coming in.”

The recent cycle of investment and growth is linked to the innovative environment that local institutions like Penn have fostered. Especially as projects on Penn property are being developed — like the Hub3939 and FMC Tower — and as Drexel plans for the Innovation Neighborhood, University City is increasingly stimulating commerce.

“Everyone wants to be near research and progress,” Budick said.

The report itself adds to the neighborhood’s economic development since “it is used as a tool for selling the neighborhood,” UCD spokesperson Lori Brennan said .

UCD partners, including Penn, distribute the report as a way to attract business, restaurants and retail to the area. Other local organizations often include the report in grant applications since the backdrop of a promising neighborhood improves their chances of winning investment dollars.

While the report’s data highlights how far University City has come, UCD representatives admit there is still work to be done. With 31 percent of West Philadelphians living below the poverty level, about 15 percent of West Philadelphia residents are unemployed .

“It’s easy to gloss over our relationship with some parts of the neighborhood, but we can’t talk about all this good without addressing issues of unemployment, education and other problems that still exist here,” Brennan said.

Beyond supporting business and innovation, UCD is working to reduce unemployment through the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, which connects unemployed residents to local employers.

UCD is also working to enhance the vibrancy of public spaces around the neighborhood’s western and eastern edges. UCD is revitalizing the Porch at 30th Street Station and the 40th Street trolley portal — potential centers of bustling activity — as a way to make University City an anchor between Center City and other adjacent areas, Budick said.


View "Report highlights U City as neighborhood on the rise" at