The number of residents walking around Center City returned to pre-pandemic levels at the end of 2021, showing the resiliency of downtown’s residential segment, according to the Center City District’s annual housing report released Tuesday.
The greater Center City region — from river to river and from Girard Avenue to Tasker Street — has been the fastest growing residential section of Philadelphia for the last two decades, according to the Center City District, which promotes the success of downtown. Its population has increased by 38% in that time period.
“In the last two decades, land-use downtown diversified, the geography of residential Center City expanded, housing unit size increased, new apartment and condo buildings featured enhanced amenities, while retail and restaurant offerings in extended and adjacent neighborhoods began to approach those available downtown,” Paul Levy, president of the Center City District, said in a statement. “The pandemic appears to have accelerated these trends.”
But, he said, given the relationship between the city’s economy and residents’ well-being, even though the city saw a “substantial” rebound in 2021, “there still is work to do to achieve full recovery.”
Construction rebounded after it was halted in spring 2020.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered construction stopped in March 2020 in a wide-ranging attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Construction resumed in a limited capacity in the city on May 1 of that year and has roared back since.
In 2021, completion of housing units waswere about 360 short of the roughly 2,140 finished in 2019 in greater Center City and just 57 units short of the 2,240 finished in adjacent neighborhoods.
Proposed development was spurred, in part, by the beginning of the phasing out of the 10-year tax abatement for new construction at the end of 2021. Permits for new residential construction in greater Center City in December 2021 more than doubled from November. November’s permit numbers were roughly double October’s.
Half of the housing units proposed or pending in late 2021 in the city were in greater Center City.
As of Dec. 31, 17,279 housing units were proposed or under construction in greater Center City, according to permit data from the Department of Licenses and Inspections. That’s half the total number citywide.
And it’s triple the number of pending units at the end of 2020 and quadruple the number at the end of 2019, according to the Center City District.
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Michelle Bond