Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Not Your Father's Philadelphia

Five days ago, the New York Times declared Philadelphia the #3 place to go in 2015, just behind Cuba and Milan. It wasn't an isolated fluke. Conde Nast recently published a reader survey that elected Philadelphia the world's second shopping destination, only outranked by Barcelona. Late last year Forbes called Philadelphia one of three great cities for solo travel along with Boston and Milan.

The weight of this praise may be hard for some locals to comprehend. We live this city every day. Like a New Year's resolutionist staring at a scale, we don't always recognize the heaping improvements this city has made in relatively recent years. But the New York Times, Forbes, and Conde Nast have pointed out the apparent fact that, yes, Philadelphia's world class vitality has been resuscitated and we're charging headfirst at becoming the nation's premier city.

"The City of Brother Love is having a moment." - Forbes

Looking at Reading Terminal Market and Old City boutiques, even chains as unique as Uniqlo and Century 21 or as benign as Nordstrom Rack, Conde Nast explains why hardcore fashionistas are heading to Philadelphia's tax-free cash registers. And the Times and Forbes are telling them why they need to stick around.

Dated storefronts are being replaced with exciting window displays and an endless supply of local restaurants, pubs, and entertainment venues. Faster than you can say "beer garden," you could have your hand wrapped around a local lager on nearly any block in Center City.

But it doesn't end with a few listicles. If Philadelphia can earn high marks for shopping and travel, just imagine where we'll land when the most cynical amongst us are finally willing to admit we deserve it. Let's face it, we're a pessimistic bunch. Despite our fierce loyalty, we tend to take praise like a Greek yia yia at Easter. We hide our pride behind burden.

That doesn't matter. In fact, it's charming that our city has a collective personality. But the influx of travel, growing population, and new destinations are bringing more. Park improvements along both rivers are signaling neighborhoods to bring their A-game. Once a pipe dream, the proposed Reading Viaduct Park is no longer inching towards reality, it's actually happening.

And we're not just following in the successful footsteps of other cities. From BYOs to our universities and hospitals, Philadelphia is trailblazing emerging industries and ideas. 

CHoP will soon be rising above the South Street Bridge and University City's skyline is about to be home to the city's sixth tallest skyscraper. The Schuylkill Banks is on its way to Bartram's Garden on the west bank of the river. We're using smart urbanism to build tall and embrace pedestrians, connecting commuters and challenging what we consider "downtown." 

The Girard Trust Block is currently one of the largest redevelopment projects since Liberty Place gave our city a skyline, and it's begging the Gallery at Market East to get in line. And the Gallery has responded. 

We're pumped up like Danny Bonaduce, growing fast with a subtle hint of roid-rage.

Things are snowballing, not because national publications have decided to recognize us, but because we gave them something to look at. No longer the Oldsmobile of America, this is not your father's Philadelphia. So move over Chicago and San Francisco, there's another big player in town. And with thousands of acres of affordable, sustainable, urban real estate north, south, and west, we can house out-priced refugees from New York and D.C. for decades.

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