English: View of Philadelphia City Hall from the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Of all the numbers that tell the story of Philadelphia today, one stands out as an unambiguous expression of confidence in the city’s future.
Last year, developers received building permits for 2,815 units of new residential housing, the most approved in a decade. Those units are worth an estimated $465 million, the highest annual amount on record.
Investors appear to be betting that Philadelphia’s population, which rose for the seventh straight year in 2013 to 1,553,165, will keep growing and that many of the new residents, young and old, will be looking for new homes and apartments.
There is some demographic evidence to support this expectation. In recent years, the city has experienced rapid growth in its population of young adults, many of them well-educated and upwardly mobile. In addition, an increasing number of aging baby boomers are leaving the suburbs and moving into the city. And the middle-class population appears to have stabilized after decades of decline.
(Is Hill leaving to avoid getting squeezed out? See Update below) Hill International, the multinational construction consulting company, is seeking a new headquarters location in Center City Philadelphia, David Richter, the 4,000-person company’s president and chief operating officer, tells me. “It’s easier to hire people, and there are better buildings and a better labor pool” downtown, compared to the company’s longtime base in Marlton, N.J., he added.
English: The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Banks moved out, theaters moved in, and – if the price of real estate in the neighborhood is any sign – things got a lot better around South Broad Street after the birth of the Avenue of the Arts.
Back in 1993, Peter C. Soens recalls, he sold the former Girard Bank building at Broad and Chestnut Streets, now home to the Ritz-Carlton, for $2 million.
Soon afterward, Soens, a partner at the commercial building broker and manager SSH Real Estate, sold One East Penn Square, across from City Hall, for $2.1 million.
By contrast, Soens said recently, “last year, 260 S. Broad St., a similar-sized building, also basically empty, sold for $27.5 million.” The buyer, Post Bros., says it will convert the former Atlantic office building to apartments.
Pittsburgh‘s up-and-coming dining scene not only is starting to generate buzz among locals, it’s also becoming known as a good place to build a career.
Indeed, the city’s new outcrop of restaurants is one of the industries — in addition to technology, health care, engineering and education — that’s drawing young people to Pittsburgh.
“The chef who wants to make a break for it has a paved path in Pittsburgh,” said Brandon Baltzley, 28, the Chicago-based firebrand chef who has spent the past year here working as a cook in restaurants and staging pop-up dinners.
“Easy living, affordable everything and a burgeoning food scene: This is an area that will soon get attention on a national level.”
Pittsburgh has become an example of reverse brain drain. The City of Pittsburgh is attracting more and more people in their 20’s and 30’s. The median age of city residents fell from 35.5 to 33.2 in the last ten years. (By comparison, the median age of Pennsylvania’s 12.7 million residents in 2010 was 40.1, up from 38.0 in 2000.) This phenomenon is rarely seen outside the Sun Belt and never in the Rust Belt. But then again, this isn’t you’re parent’s Pittsburgh, anymore.
The smokey steel city of the 40’s and 50’s is long gone. Heavy industry has been replaced with education, health-care, robotics, computer technology and other high-tech and green industry. Pittsburgh is building itself a more diversified economy and consistently ranks high on the list of America’s Most Livable Cities. The cost of living in Pittsburgh makes it very attractive to young people.
Because of all these factors, and more, Pittsburgh will be hosting the One Young World Summit in 2012. 2,000 young leaders from 160 countries will be coming to Pittsburgh to discuss topics like global health, climate change and micro-economics. Most of these delegates will be in their 20’s. This will be the third year for One Young World. Last year the event was held in London and this year it was held in Zurich.
Pittsburgh beat out Johannesburg, South Africa to host One Young World in 2012. Other countries that bid for the conference besides South Africa were China, Australia, Peru and Dubai. Pittsburgh was the only American city bidding to host this event.