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Foot traffic trends across the city’s urban core were just one metric that Philadelphia Center City District CEO Paul Levy shared with dozens of business leaders Tuesday morning, but it’s an indicator that offers insight for many others.
That’s because business leaders often rely on pedestrian and vehicular traffic studies to decide whether to invest in commercial real estate or not.
For decades, investment in commercial real estate projects has meant business for other firms like architects, attorneys, accountants, bankers, and building trades contractors. After construction, those same buildings produce retail jobs for security guards, maintenance workers, and kitchen staff.
Outgoing Center City District CEO Paul Levy gave the results of a report about economic recovery of downtowns nationwide, including Philadelphia. (Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)
In Levy’s vision, an office skyscraper in Philadelphia where dozens of companies may lease several thousand square feet — is not just a commuter destination — but an economic driver.
Levy shared his bird’s eye view of the Center City economy while standing 52 floors above Market Street in a private social club lounge — the Pyramid Club.
He leveraged smartphone sensor data collected by a technology company, Placer.ai, that the organization pays to access. He then showed the crowd how Philadelphia’s downtown compares to similar districts nationwide.
The Pyramid Club is a private business club on the 52nd floor of a skyscraper that offered Center City District members a view of the city not often seen.(Kristen Mosbrucker-Garza/WHYY)
Downtown foot traffic data in Philadelphia showed a rebound of 84% for all visitors during the second quarter this year compared to the same period in 2019 — a year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
But that foot traffic for visitors, residents, and commuters alike lags behind Memphis, San Diego, San Jose, and Nashville.
For non-resident workers who commute to Center City, Philadelphia has rebounded to only 70% of the volume as of June 30, compared to the second quarter of 2019.
“More slowly than you and I may like, but it’s a steady incremental movement upward,” Levy told the crowd. “We have not reached a plateau.”