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Report: Center City residents, many millennials, driving $1B retail boom

And retail rents are higher than ever

Center City is in the middle of a retail boom, including local and big-name retailers alike.
Photo by C. Gabello for Visit Philadelphia

Center City can thank the neighborhood’s booming population, made up mostly of millennials, for the dozens of retailers that have set up shop in the last year, from Target to WaWa to Warby Parker.

According to Center City District’s latest retail report, Philly’s Center City has the second largest residential population in the country, growing 17 percent from 2000. Millennials make up 46 percent of Center City’s core population, which makes them one of the main drivers of area’s recent and ongoing $1 billion investment in retail.

Other big drivers: Workers, tourists, and college students. Philly has 11 colleges and universities in Center City alone, and another three in University City across the Schuylkill River.

“Center City’s expanding affluent and highly educated population, along with a growth in tourism, has attracted more than 45 national retailers since 2013,” the report states.

That includes the largest Center City location for WaWa, which just opened last week at 19th and Market. Two Targets opened within months of each other earlier this year, with another on the way near the new Whole Foods in Callowhill.

Currently, the most popular area in Center City, seems to be right around the shopping hub of 16th and Chestnut, according to the report. Pedestrian sensors installed around Center City found that this intersection saw more than 36,000 people walk by on Fridays this past fall.

All that could change in the next few years, however, with all of the projects in the works a few blocks away: Seven major mixed-use developments are in the works east of Broad Street, a sign of rising rents and lack of space around Rittenhouse Square.

The two biggest of the bunch, of course, are East Market, which just topped off earlier this month, and the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia across the street. Those two projects total 865,000 square feet of the total 1.1 million square feet of retail in the works in the neighborhood.