Are we experiencing Philadelphia’s biggest development boom in almost 50 years?

Billy Penn
Fantastic shot courtesy of


In my professional opinion maybe. Since I’ve only been alive since ’79, it’s kind of hard for me to say.

Here is what I will say. No matter how experienced you are as an agent, no matter how long you have been selling Philadelphia real estate, it’s very difficult for anyone to give a straight answer to that question or predict the future of the local market.

But … when you have someone who is as experienced and credible as Alan Greenberger (Philadelphia’s current Deputy Mayor for Economic Development & Director of Commerce) say that he has not seen a boom like this since ’74 (the year he moved from NYC to PHL), you know that something unique is currently happening in the City of Brotherly Love.

So, how is 2015 any different than the last real estate wave that ended in 2008? The answer, global awareness of Philadelphia’s affordability and accessibility.

As I have stated in the past, Philadelphia is not one of the most affordable cities in the US, but we are one of the largest and most affordable cities in the “Northeastern” US. On top of that, we are a Top US global gateway metro, with our neighbor NYC being the largest. “The Northeast” is the most economically developed, densely populated, and culturally diverse region in the entire US. There is more urbanized land than any other part of the country, and we also enjoy large amounts of forest-use/green space (about 60% in total, which is about twice the US average). From just Pennsylvania to Maine, the area is home to over 55M people.

When you are located right in between the Financial Capital of the US (NYC, which in 2014 was also named the “World’s Leading Financial Centre”) and the Political Capital of the US (DC, or course), you are guaranteed to receive some attention. Now that Philadelphia has really begun to come into its own, with Center City, University City, and the Navy Yard all leading the charge, the world now has its eyes on us.

And when they get here, they will realize just how affordable and accessible Philadelphia really is!

Based on the city’s size, as well as the size of the surrounding suburban metro area, you can get almost anywhere using a form of public transportation (i.e. train, subway, or bus). Now that Uber has entered the Philadelphia transportation market, it’s even easier. This is due to the metro area’s compactness, which is a product of density and smart planning over the last 300+ years.

Okay, back to Greenberger.

This article states that he sees the current real estate boom in Philadelphia continuing for the next 5-10 years, although maybe not at the same pace throughout that entire time frame. There are still many highly accessible areas in both North/South Philadelphia that have yet to be touched by redevelopment/reimagination from the millennial generation, as these are the folks that are making cities like Philadelphia great again.

Just like the Market-Frankford Line has redefined neighborhoods like Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and Kensington, the Broad Street Line has the same potential.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 5-10 years, and if Greenberger’s prediction is right. Either way, it’s a very exciting time to be living in Philadelphia.

Cira Centre South is finally taking shape with FMC Tower

Cira Centre South – 2016

If it was said that I haven’t wrote enough about University City over the past few years, it would be an understatement.

Well, here is some more cool news for UCity.

After much hype and debate over the last few years, coupled with a slowdown in high-rise commercial development across the city, Brandywine is now set to break ground on FMC Tower (aka FMC Tower at Cire Centre South). This will be the end cap to the Cira Centre development in University City, Philadelphia.

Here are the details:

– 650 feet tall, or 47 stories tall
– Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli (who also designed UCity’s Cira Centre, next to 30th Street Station)
– Almost 1,000,000 sq ft of usable space (with over 60% already pre-leased to FMC & UPenn)
– FMC will have a skybridge connected to Cira Green (a new, 1-acre park on top of a parking garage)

All I can say is, awesome!

Not only for the fact that another cool, architecturally pleasing building will join the likes of Cira Centre and the upcoming Evo at Cira Centre South (formerly known as The Grove), but because another large company is putting their Global HQ in Philadelphia, while joining the likes of UPenn (Philadelphia’s largest, private employer). This type of development further justifies UCity’s place as Philadelphia’s 2nd leading center for jobs/entertainment.

All good stuff.

A few other things that make this project cool, IMHO:

– It’s Mixed-Use: FMC Tower will house FMC, UPenn, and rental housing; 3 different uses (commercial, educational, and residential), 1 building. These tenants will all be on top of the future tenants taking space in the building.

– It’s Green: FMC Tower is shooting for LEED Silver Certification, with the plan of adding a 1-acre park on top of a parking garage. This will help with stormwater management, as well as provide a new park for Philadelphians to enjoy. Also, the views will be nothing short of spectacular.

– It’s Smart: The design is great, it’s right next to 30th Street Station, it still has the option to comfortably park your car (for both travelers and suburbanites alike), and it’s building on UCity’s current momentum as a global city-within-a-city.

For further reading, check out these other helpful links:

All The Renderings: Cira Centre South’s Final Tower

650 Foot Tall Monster Building Coming to West Philly

Many More Details About the Skyscraping FMC Tower

University City’s growth labeled as a “real estate explosion”

Aerial View | University City, Philadelphia

I agree.

How else can you describe a small, dense, city-within-a-city that has seen local jobs climb from 50,000 to 72,000 in just over 10 years? That’s an overall increase of 44% (since 2001), and half the time was also during one of the worst recessions the US has ever seen.

Pretty impressive.

Here is a great quote from Matt Bergheiser, Executive Director of the UCD:

“It’s the land of opportunity here. Our general theme is onward and upward. It seems like every year we build on the amazing things that happened the year before. We broke some barriers and some of it is measured by data. We broke the 72,000 jobs barrier, we broke 43,000 student mark and we have more 6.5 million square feet in development either planned in a real way or under construction and a wave of residential development coming.

“Almost 2,000 new housing units are coming. That’s about 4,000 to 5,000 additional people or about a 10 percent increase in population by 2015. We continue to be a place where the concentration of economic activity is unmatched in all but a handful of places around the country. It’s important and critical for the city and region. When you get a lot brain power in a concentrated space, good things happen.”

Multiple posts have been written during my blogging career about how impressed I am with UCity’s growth, as well as their planning, decision making, and organization.

Here are some past articles for further info consumption (in case you are either new to this blog, or just want a refresher), starting with the most recent:

University City … meet “Drexification”
More residential growth for University City
What recession?
More rental high-rises for University City
University City is still thriving
An “oasis” at Penn

Talk about a UCity overload, but I always find that it’s helpful to take one current, worthwhile article, and link it to past blog posts that I’ve done to bring the point home. It just makes for easier reading.

If you have not been to University City recently, since college, or since the 90s, now is as good a time as ever to drive down, walk around, and have a nice dinner while you’re there.