Center City a commuter magnet - both ways

Paul Levy, energetic head of the Center City District, hates it when I call downtown a "bedroom community" where the residential population has been rising a lot faster than office space or corporate employment.

But that only confirms a lot of well-off people like to live in Center City, wherever they work. The district today published an interesting report that shows, among other things:

- A little less than half the working people who live in Center City have jobs there. One-quarter commute out to the suburbs. Most of the rest work elsewhere in Philadelphia - except around wealthy Rittenhouse Square, where nearly one-fifth of the population works in New York or some other "Out of Area" location.

- Around one in three Center City workers walk to their job. Almost as many "reverse commute" by car. About a quarter take Septa or Patco. 6% work at home; 5% bike.

- Philadelphia "is weathering the recession much better than other places," at least partly because we didn't inflate so much:

Philadelphia ranks with energy-rich Dallas and Denver as places where home prices are off less than 10% since the market peaked three years ago. 

By contrast, in the speculative Sun Belt wreckage of Phoenix and Miami and Las Vegas, home prices are down 50% or more. Philadelphia also has lost less than Boston (-15%), New York (-21%) or Washington DC (down 27%, which looks pretty suspicious. They must be counting depressed Baltimore and-or overbuilt Northern Virginia.)

- Of 2,500 units built in "20 Major Condo Projects" in Philadelphia in 2003-10, more than one-third (around 900) are still vacant.

- The district tells us it's gotten tough to find an open apartment among the 39,000 rental in Center City. Though there are nice unsold condos for rent......

- Center City home sales rose to 548 in the first three quarters of the year, up from 438 a year ago; average price rose 2% to $490,000. But unit constructions/conversions have slowed, to just 237 so far this year, from over 1,500 each year in 2006-2008.