Upsurge in development dollars building up city's image

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Originally published by The Philadlephia Tribune

Upsurge in development dollars building up city's image

Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2015 12:00 am

Ayana Jones Tribune Staff Writer 


Philadelphia will usher in 2016 with an upsurge in investment and economic development, a sampling of city development officials have concluded.

Much of the economic development is being driven in Center City where new housing, hotels and retail outlets are under construction.

“The interest in people outside the city in investing and developing and moving businesses into Philadelphia has gone up dramatically,” Paul Levy, head of the Center City District, told the Philadelphia Tribune. “The significant amount of residential growth that we’ve experienced over the past decade has really influenced both local retailers and national retailers.”

According to a report released by the CCD and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, national developers are investing $6.7 billion in major projects that are underway or planned for completion within the downtown area by 2018. More than 2.3 million square feet of space are dedicated to retail as older shopping areas are being redeveloped and Philadelphia’s prime retail district, formerly centered on Walnut Street, continues to expand mainly west on Chestnut Street and east on Market Street.

University City, the 2.4-square-mile area just west of the Schuylkill River, is also propelling growth in the Philadelphia region.

The State of University City 2016 report, which was recently released by the University City District, indicates that more than 10 million square feet of real estate projects are under development or were recently completed, representing more than $4.6 billion in investment. University City institutions are investing nearly $1 billion in research-and-development spending dedicated to new discoveries and medical cures.

“University City institutions and businesses are helping to fuel the growth of Philadelphia’s economy. The magnificent mix of academic, research and commercial partners in University City is leading the region and much of the country in the acceleration of economic activity,” said Matt Bergheiser, executive director of University City District.

The UCD notes that driven by growth of the city’s ranked universities and medical systems, the number of jobs in University City is expected to exceed 76,000 in 2016. From 2008 to 2013, there has been a 79 percent increase in middle- to high-wage positions, substantially outpacing wage growth in the city overall.

When the University of Pennsylvania opens the Pennovation Center in the summer, the center will serve as a hub for the region’s and the university’s community of innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs.

This 58,000-square-foot facility will anchor the 23-acre Pennovation Works at 3401 Grays Ferry Ave. It is adjacent to Penn’s campus and the health system complex, bordering the Grays Ferry Crescent of the Schuylkill River.

Benjamin Desk, a shared work-space provider, has been named the operator and manager of member services at the Pennovation Center.

“The Pennovation Works site will create and sustain a community of entrepreneurs and innovators who will translate new ideas and research into products, ventures and services that will transform the city, the region and the world,” said Anne Papageorge, Penn’s vice president for facilities and real estate services. “At the center, we are excited to work with the Benjamin’s Desk team and co-working community in combination with Penn’s talent, resources and vision to expand the impact of this innovative environment.”

While economic development is on the upswing in the Center City and University City districts, it is lagging in other areas of Philadelphia.

“The big challenge for the next mayor is to make sure we have growth throughout the entire city, not just in a few areas,” Levy said. “I think we’ve got a lot of very positive momentum happening in Center City, at Temple, in University City, at the Navy Yard and at the airport, but we could use commercial corridors and industrial areas all across the city going through a more dynamic revival.

“For years, the job of the mayor was to swim upstream against currents that were about to drown us. Now we’ve got currents tilting in the right direction. A lot more needs to be done to spread benefits city wide but I think it’s a very positive time for the city,” he added.