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Philadelphia Fellow Richard Florida releases Philadelphia's Next Challenge: From Urban Revitalization to Inclusive Prosperity

Urges anchor institutions to spread equitable growth across city

Philadelphia's Next Challenge cover page

October 18, 2019

Inaugural Philadelphia Fellow Richard Florida released his report, Philadelphia’s Next Challenge: From Urban Revitalization to Inclusive Prosperity (pdf), at an appearance at Venture Cafe on October 17th. In an interview with Inquirer reporter Juliana Feliciano Reyes, Florida shared his findings, arguing that Philadelphia must address issues relating to inequality and inclusion if it is to continue its growth trajectory. Florida cautioned that, while its gentrification and affordability issues are not yet as challenging as most leading cities, Philadelphia's lagging median income, education attainment and poverty markers contribute to the city being among the nation’s worst in inequality and segregation metrics. Among the findings which signal a need for decisive, collaborative action:

  • Downward millennial trend: “The metro’s rate of millennial population growth cratered to just 2.6 percent per year from 2010 to 2015, dropping from number one to number 80 of the nation’s 350 or so metro areas.” 
  • Middle-class departure: “Philadelphia’s middle-class numbers are even lower today, having shrunk to just over 200,000 (217,833) residents. This is just 36 percent of the city’s population, the sixth smallest share of the nation’s fifty biggest cities. And the city’s rate of middle-class growth between 2012 and 2017 of negative 3.3 percent is the fifth worst of those fifty largest cities”
  • Lack of jobs/quality schools accelerating departures: “A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts examining who is leaving Philadelphia found that education plays a major role. The people moving out are those who can: Movers are disproportionately young, white and educated. Half of all movers were between the ages of 18 and 34, a group that comprised just 30 percent of the city’s population.”

To remedy these negative trends, Florida suggested the city’s anchors institutions work with the City, Chamber of Commerce and community leaders to implement four pillars:

  • Ensure affordable housing, with anchors leading the way through their on-campus-student policies and collaborating on building affordable and below market housing.
  • Create a more inclusive innovation economy, with anchors continuing to lead and bolster inclusive innovation efforts 
  • Turn low-wage service jobs into family-sustaining work by anchors paying a living wage and requiring vendors to do so as well
  • Spread prosperity to all areas of the city through the anchors making inclusive development part of their core mission and working strategically to ensure prosperity for the whole city. 

The release was covered in PhillyMag and, and referenced in an Inquirer report on the city’s low-wage job growth