Philadelphians are familiar with the term Center City and most will agree on its definition, but Center City is not in the center of the city, and it is not the only "downtown," residential and employment node. Philadelphia is not alone. Across the country cities have their own unique names and placements for downtowns and major employment clusters. That can make it challenging when groups try to compare the downtown live, work patterns of major cities, which is why Center City District (CCD) released a report redefining downtowns as major employment centers and the one-mile radius that surrounds each of them.
The report, Defining Downtown, encourages redefining downtowns based on employment data and looked at 231 major employment centers in the country's 150 largest cities.
Employment data, the report suggests, is a better indicator of "downtown" status since it can capture the unique geographic bounds of a downtown better than other indicators like census tracks or geographic relation to a city's city hall, which may or may not actually be in a downtown district. It also makes it possible to recognize that many cities have multiple downtowns.
Using this employment-based "downtown" definition, CCD compared 231 major employment centers in the country's 150 largest cities. Philadelphia has two of those centers - Center City (288,227 jobs) and University City District (79,368 jobs), and CCD wasted no time before using its new employment-based downtown definition to compare Philadelphia's employment nodes with others nationwide.
Among the 231 employment centers in the 150 largest cities, Defining Downtown found that:
The residential population in Philly's commercial downtown grew by 16.3% from 2000 to 2010. Within half a mile of the commercial downtown district, residential population grew by 16.2% from 2000 to 2010.
In a special "Note on Social Equity and Downtown Development," the authors wrote that, while this report focuses on the impact of major urban employment centers on adjacent residential areas, Philadelphia is proof that urban employment centers provide opportunities for workers of all education and skill levels throughout the rest of the city as well. Residents from Philadelphia neighborhoods outside of Center City account for 41.9% of the downtown workforce.
The full report can be found online at http://definingdowntown.org
Christine covers transportation and writes about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments send her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covers community news for Eyes on the Street, where her coverage ranges from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. During the internship her reporting on the Housing Authority’s surplus property auctions earned an award from the Society of Professional Journalists.