PHILADELPHIA - Christmas Village is back up and running, officially marking the holiday season in Philadelphia. The hustle and bustle of the city's downtown scene is rapidly growing as pedestrians fill the streets, marking a post-covid comeback. But, city officials warn that there could be obstacles that stand in the way of a full recovery.
The Center City District, a downtown management group funded by businesses, finds the news about Philadelphia's downtown core is largely upbeat in its latest 28-page report.
In the newly released report, the daily pedestrian foot traffic in October reached three-quarters of pre-pandemic levels. Visitors and shoppers are nearing the time before covid, and 80% of Center City District storefronts are open for business again.
Prema Katari Gupta, Vice President of the Center City District, warns that while these may look like positive statistics, there are still some factors that could cause issues for Philadelphia as the city tries to fight off its post-covid slump.
"We have more residents now than we did before the pandemic," said Katari Gupta. "The visitors, whether regional or national, are coming back, but we’re still missing half of the office workers and that’s causing some issues."
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The recent shuttering of some WaWa and Starbucks locations in the city has also captured attention and left people with the sense that downtown Philadelphia is in decline. But, the Center City District finds that the loss of older retailers has been backfilled by new shops with both a brick and mortar and online presence.
"This is a good sign that we’re really rebounding well, and a lot more stores are opening than the ones we hear that are closing," said City Councilman Mark Squilla.
The city's management group also reported that Comcast bringing its workers back to the office has helped the city's growth and although empty storefronts are still easily found, and "quality of life" concerns are raised amid surging gun violence, young people in the city say nightlife is back.
"You know nightlife in the city is unlike anything else," said Alyssa Simon, an accountant from Center City.
Katari Gupta says this is because gun violence is less of an issue in Center City than it is in other parts of city.
"I would say gun violence is perhaps less of an issue in Center City, but it is 100% a massive issue in the city and needs a lot of attention."
City officials say controlling gun violence and getting more office workers back in the workplace will further help "rebirth" the city of Philadelphia.