Sunday, June 15, 2014

Philadelphia, The New New York

You only need to read BuzzFeed once a month to know that comparing cities is futile. You can compare the populations, GDPs, and apparent attractiveness of cities, but any comparison is as relative as it is irrelevant. The only way to define a city is to experience its individuality. And the only thing that matters is a city's potential. 

Right now, deliberate or not, Philadelphia is doing everything right. And forgive my rosy glasses, but Philadelphia is poised to take over the Northeast.

"You're crazy, Wes."

Am I? While cities like Las Vegas, Miami, and Phoenix struggle to fill skyscrapers that never should have been built, Philadelphia continues to rise. The Big Three - New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago - continue to brazenly build, but they always have. Meanwhile, other cities that survived the Great Recession - Dallas, Portland, and Seattle - have plateaued. 

The relaxed rules at the Pennsylvania Convention Center are already making headlines in the events planning industry and new hotels will undoubtedly follow. The center's downtown location has always been better than those in comparable cities like D.C. and Baltimore. Conventioneers love our center, the only thing they hated was the cost. That's over, and change is coming fast. 

New development along Market East is only going to make the center more desirable. Two decades after it opened, the center is about to become the game changer the state had always hoped.

But Philadelphia isn't only going to own the Northeast's exhibition industry. For decades Philadelphia has been disregarded as a failing city between the nation's political capitol and its financial capitol. Today, that's a huge asset. 

Companies don't need New York anymore. While New York may always be America's premier city and Philadelphia may not find eight million residents anytime soon, we're positioned to give New York - and other cities - a run for their money.

Comcast is about to adorn one of New York's most iconic buildings with a corporate logo synonymous with Philadelphia. That's huge. When Comcast purchased NBC Universal, 30 Rock's satirical character, Jack Donaghy said, "How could a company from Philadelphia buy a company from New York? That would be like Vietnam defeating the United States in a ground war."

Humor aside, satire is grounded in truth, and that's exactly what is happening. 

Comcast can afford Manhattan, but Comcast is building the communicative technology that proves companies leasing Manhattan office space are doing so solely for posterity. Most actors, artists, designers, and startups can't even afford Brooklyn, let alone Manhattan. And that long train ride to Queens gives them a lot of time to think about affordable apartments in more manageable cities. 

But those cities aren't just manageable, they provide a better quality of life. Manhattan has become an island for tourists and the rich. The Trumps of our world might not want to admit it, but good business thrives on the fresh ideas of economic diversity, the diversity that New York has priced out to the next best thing. 

Philadelphia is loving the leftovers. After all, a fresh pretzel still costs fifty cents here, so we have no problem dumpster diving for a fifty dollar Caesar salad. We have affordable talent, affordable apartments, and thanks to the fact that we lost the population of Atlanta in the 1900s, an endless supply of underutilized real estate. 

We can cheaply house New York refugees for another fifty years, and they're creating our own art, fashion, and theater industries rivaling those that New York once solely owned.

New York has no answers. Short of a complete economic collapse - which would be good for no one - New York will never find its way back to its roots. It can't afford to. New York's resources have been mined. Like Washington, D.C., it may soon be a one trick pony, an industry town known for Wall Street and legacy companies. The city sold its soul, but Philadelphia is what it was 238 years ago: an urban embodiment of individual ideas, revolution, and independence.

Manhattan has no where to go but down and Philadelphia is rising. In twenty years we will no longer be New York's scrappy little brother. If City Hall can get its act together and recognize our potential, we're primed to be the Big Apple's corporate and cultural equal. We're coming for you, New York.


  1. Hmm, that was an interesting read, but you are probably right. I was in NYC a few weeks ago and the city really feels soulless, everybody I met there was a tourist or had some way to take even more money from the tourists. I was there for a week with friends and even though we looked for every hotel deal in NYC possible, we still payed around $1000 just for accommodation. That is somehow not right, I don't make that much money in two weeks and I work in science.

  2. Of course, they'll never admit that we've got them beat. We're the city equivalent of a dark horse.

  3. Great article man! I really think that NYC is overrated. I was there 3 years ago and I was not that impressed at all. I booked an average hotel with Reservation Counter and I stayed outside of Manhattan. The streets were dirty, the air was polluted and the city was not that much of a deal in my opinion. So in that perspective I think you might be right. In the future Philadelphia can be a cultural equal.