Each year, the University City District compiles, in a glossy report, the vital signs for the eastern half of West Philly. For a while now, the trend lines have been strong. But this year, the numbers are truly staggering.
- Total University City development activity — which includes projects finished in recent years and those now underway — totals a staggering $4.6 billion. Context? In the whole of Center City, there’s an estimated $7 billion in development now underway (and yes, that includes the new Comcast tower).
- Not included in that University City development total are an array of other massive planned projects that look to be very viable indeed, from the $1 billion uCity Square to Drexel’s planned Innovation Neighborhood, which could cost $2 billion (and that’s just phase one).
- West Philly’s office market is sizzling. The vacancy rate is two percent, compared to about 12 percent in the city overall (and 16.5 percent in the ‘burbs). And that’s with landlords charging a third more per square foot for rent than are Center City building owners.
- There are now more than 75,000 jobs within UCD’s boundaries, which stretch east to west from the river to 50th Street, and north to south from Spring Garden (ish) to Woodland Avenue. That’s a lot of jobs. Context: the businesses of core Center City employ about 230,000, and the job total at the Navy Yard is about 12,000.
- Many of these jobs are good jobs. UCD’s research shows that the number of middle and high-wage positions — those are defined as paying $40,000 or more a year — surged by 79 percent between 2008 and 2013. Better than 65 percent of all jobs in this chunk of West Philly pay more than $40k. Elsewhere in the city, the figure is less than 50 percent. That kind of solid compensation is a big deal in a city like Philadelphia, where the wage scale is low across the board, compared to many other cities.
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