Report: University City sitting pretty these days

Pedestrians in University City walk through the newly constructed Woodland Green Plaza.
Pedestrians in University City walk through the newly constructed Woodland Green Plaza.
Posted: October 02, 2012

THE UNIVERSITY City District's "State of University City 2012" report, out Monday, paints a glowing picture of an area teeming with economic growth and new construction, especially around the universities, with housing values tripling over the last 10 years.

"When you look at University City, you have a concentration of economic activity that is unmatched in all but a few communities in the whole country," said Matt Bergheiser, executive director of UCD.

The UCD is a neighborhood-improvement and economic-development organization that is 15 years old this year.

"In the past three years, we've had 5.1 million square feet of new construction and $3 billion total new real estate value and $3 billion in research and development spending," Bergheiser said Friday.

He also said nearly half of Pennsylvania's funding from the National Institutes of Health is going to research projects in roughly a single square mile in University City. The total UC neighborhood is a 2.4 square-mile area.

The University City District is to present its "State of University City 2012" at a meeting Monday of the organization's partners and stakeholders, as well as city officials, he said.

The presentation will not be open to the public, but it may be available by contacting UCD at 215-243-0555 or at email at ucd@universitycty.org, or by checking its website at universitycity.org.

Bergheiser also said the district is responsible for adding more than 27 acres of green space recently. For example, the district created the Porch, a public space at 30th Street Station in November 2011. And it recently unveiled a new Woodland Pedestrian Plaza at Woodland Avenue at 42nd Street.

The report notes that visitors might hear one of 35 languages spoken in the area along 45th near Walnut and sample fare from Pakistani, Ethiopian and Lebanese restaurants. It's an area some are calling "Little Lebanon."

"Generally, I think they've been a positive force in University City," said Matthew Wolfe, Republican leader of the 27th Ward.

He praised the UCD's efforts to promote business corridors and restaurants and noted that when he was early for a meeting near the old post office, he grabbed a cup of coffee, sat and read a newspaper at the Porch.

"I thought it was nice," Wolfe said. "Before, it was a windswept slab of concrete. Now, it's a comfortable place to go and sit."

But Wolfe said in years past, residents and community leaders weren't pleased with some of the University City District's involvement in partisan politics or a plan to "jam their master plan for [changing] Clark Park down our throats."

The report notes that there are 70,000 employees in University City, accounting for 12 percent of the city's total employment. Its population of young educated people continued to grow with residents aged 20 to 34 years old increasing by nearly 21 percent between 2000 and 2010. In addition, more than 54 percent of area residents have earned a bachelor's degree or above, an increase of nearly 41 percent since 2000. The overall University City population grew by 2.6 percent since 2000 and 4.9 percent since 1990.

Bergheiser said the focus of the presentation of the report to stakeholders will be what University City can expect over the next 15 years.


Contact Valerie Russ at russv@phillynews.com or 215-854-5987. Follow her on Twitter @ValerieRussDN.

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