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The State of University City 2011: Giving Voice to a Vision of Prosperity and Possibility in University City

October 11, 2011, Volume 58, No. 07

State of UC 2011

University City District (UCD), the neighborhood improvement and economic development organization in West Philadelphia, recently announced the release of The State of University City 2011, a new publication that illustrates the neighborhood’s exemplary status as a knowledge center; an engine of prosperity, innovation and commercial vibrancy; and a world-class neighborhood with world-class amenities. More than 40 pages of color charts, statistics, photographs, and personal stories help demonstrate why University City is one of the most vibrant and vital neighborhoods in the region.

University City, the 2.4 square mile area just west of the Schuylkill River, has become a place where Philadelphia’s future is happening today. It’s a boomtown with nearly 70,000 jobs and $2 billion in real estate projects recently completed or under construction.  Neighborhood institutions are investing more than $1 billion dollars in R&D spending into new cures and innovation, and University City has already exceeded the City’s 2015 targets for renewable energy. Global innovators, Iron Chefs, the IRS, Hilton hotels and even urban beekeepers, all call University City home. These are just a few of the many signs that University City is a first-class neighborhood.

The State of University City 2011 articulates how University City is a community that’s alive, unlike ever before. What follows are some of the neighborhood’s most notable recent accomplishments:

Commercial Vitality

•     University City retail occupancy rates continue to climb, with more than six dozen new businesses opening in University City over the last 18 months.

•     $639,900 was channeled to businesses by UCD from government and foundations throughout the University City District boundaries in the last two years.

•     Employment growth at University City’s largest employers has been extremely impressive, amounting to 12.2% over the last five years, even before factoring in 4,325 new employees at the IRS facility.

•     UCD’s signature events such as University City Dining Days presented by Wells Fargo, and the Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, which bring thousands of new faces to our commercial corridors and shops, are vastly increasing sales for our local merchants.

Economic Development

•     The $50 million Homewood Suites by Hilton is one of Philadelphia’s largest construction projects, and will create 300 new full-time and temporary positions when completed in spring 2012.

•     Nearly 30 new development projects advanced or were completed in University City in the last two years, representing almost 3 million square feet of new office, research, academic and medical space.

•     The office vacancy rate is consistently among the lowest in the region.  In 2010, it fell to 7.2% even as the vacancy rate in the in the center business district stood at 14.2%, and in the suburbs at 18.6%. Major commercial and public space investments at our eastern edge such as Penn Park and the new pedestrian plaza outside of 30th Street Station are knitting together Philadelphia’s two thriving business districts.


•     Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, a homegrown company, conceived at Penn and incubated at the University City Science Center, completed an $800 million deal with Eli Lilly, a global pharmaceutical firm.

•     The percentage and amount of statewide National Institute of Health funding going to University City institutions climbed to a new 5-year high, with more than $1 billion spent on R&D by University City institutions in 2008.

A Neighborhood of Choice

•     The number of homes sold in University City increased by 26% in 2010 to the highest level in three years and the median price increased by 7%.

•     The 2010 Census found a consistent population increase over the last 20 years, amounting to an increase of 4.8% since 1990 and 2.3% since 2000 (The population throughout Greater Philadelphia fell by -3.8% over the 20-year period).

Sustainable University City

• Nearly 100% of University City residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park or recreation center, and have equally good access to local food resources (including farmers’ markets and community gardens).

• 14% of Philadelphia’s LEED certified or registered projects are in University City, despite the neighborhood occupying just 2% of the city’s land area.

• Thanks in large part to the extraordinary commitment to renewable energy by Drexel (100% wind) and Penn (21st largest buyer nationwide), University City already exceeds the city’s 2015 targets, with 24% of energy coming from renewable sources.

“At UCD, we believe that University City’s future is critical to the future of our city and region, and that the unique assets, opportunities and environment here are both an engine of prosperity and an exemplar of community,” said UCD Executive Director Matt Bergheiser. 

“UCD promotes a world class, vibrant University City through major investments in public space development, public maintenance and public safety, by connecting entrepreneurs and residents to economic opportunity, and through the creation and management of destination events,” he added.

This publication illustrates the exciting progress of the neighborhood and the impact of University City District. To obtain copies, contact the UCD at (215) 243-0555 or at ucd@universitycity.org

Almanac - October 11, 2011, Volume 58, No. 07