Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Can Philly still be shrinking?

So, as most people know, the City of Philadelphia has been shrinking dramatically for the past 50 years or so. While we once had 2.5 million, we now have about 1.5. (To put that in perspective, we have lost more people in the past 50 years than Boston has total.)

Yet lately, there have been some signs that maybe the flight has stopped. For example, the Daily News had a story today about the amazingly booming condo market, where people are paying anywhere from a few hundred grand to a few million dollars to live in a development in any number of neighborhoods in the City. The idea that people are willing to pay that much to live in Philly, rather than outside it? A wonderful thought.

And, frankly, the Condos seem more like the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that existing homes are going for more and more all over the city. Think for a minute, of all of the booming neighborhoods in Philly. Besides the obvious ones, ie. Northern Liberties and Old City, there is:

Fairmount, which is busting at the seams, expanding into Brewery Town on one end, and North Philly on the other;

Southern Kensington, or, "North of Northern Liberties" as well as Fishtown; or

East Falls, with new restaurants and coffee shops going up constantly, and booming home prices; or

A variety of South Philly neighborhoods, including Bella Vista, "South of South," and now, "SoWa," South of Washington; or

West Philly, where a simply shell of a home anywhere reasonably close to Penn goes for ridiculous amounts... And the list could go on.

There is, without a doubt, a certain amount of a housing bubble going on, much like the tech bubble in the 90's, and it will pop at some point. (Hopefully, Philly, which has been undervalued for so long, will see less of a fall than other locales.)

But that said, with so many people willing to spend so much money in so many different neighborhoods in Philadelphia, is it possible that we are still shrinking? I simply cannot see it... And I am pretty sure that when the new Census population estimates are released in July, Philadelphia may in fact see something it has not seen in over 50 years: Real, measured growth.


At 1:28 PM, Blogger LA said...

I keep a pretty close eye on Philly population estimates. I keep waiting for the numbers to go up for all of the reasons listed above. But, sadly, it hasn't really happened. Population estimates from the census:
April 2000 - 1,517,550
July 2001 - 1,499,758
July 2002 - 1,488,780
July 2003 - 1,479,339

And we're still losing population faster than almost every other city.

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Friedman said...

I have a half-baked theory that there are thousands of middle and upper middle class folks who go uncounted because they use addresses outside of the City to avoid the wage tax (or a portion thereof) and car insurance but live and sometimes work in Philadelphia.

At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Population down because Philadelphia families, like American families in general, are shrinking in size.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger DanielUA said...


Yeah, however, I belive those are petty revised numbers. If I recall correctly, they thought it was going to drop a lot more than that. And, ocmpared to previous years, it is not shrinking nearly as fast as we used to be. If I recall correctly, we in theory had 1.45 million in 2000, which was magically changed by the Census.

At some point, the drop has to stop. I guess we will see july 1.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg said...

I saw this over at Philly Future:
According to the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth does better than 49 other states in college student retention (see story). Pennsylvania has overtaken New York – for the first time - as the #1 destination for first-time freshmen leaving their home states to attend university. The net gain is 12,209 students; Pennsylvania is now #1 in this "net migration" metric as well. In the longer term, nearly 20% of out-of-state graduates will remain five years after graduation. This means 3,500 young, college-educated workers are added to our state every year; not too shabby.
Now we just have to start attracting businesses to the state who can actually employ this large number of well educated youngsters.

But either way, with our state ranking amongst the oldest, this is a great trend for PA.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work in the insurance industry and I was thinking the same thing.

Everyone is leaving, yet a 1000sq ft rowhouse in the Art Museum area is going for about $300,000.

You're right though. The bubble is going to pop.

At 4:14 PM, Blogger rox_publius said...

i, too, was looking for the hoards of friends i had moving into the city in the population figures five to ten years ago.

now, they are earning real money and having children, and the flight is apparent.

horrible schools,.ridiculous taxation, municipal corruption, bloted government, inefficient services, and tolerance for crime, petty or otherwise, all take a huge collective toll.


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