Center City, or Downtown Philadelphia includes the central business district, and central neighborhoods of the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. As of 2005, its population of over 88,000 made it the third most populous downtown in the United States, after New York City and Chicago. This number can rise to over 235,000 during the working hours due to the daily influx of commuters and tourists.
Center City is bounded by South Street to the south, the Delaware River to the east, the Schuylkill River to the west and either Vine Street or Spring Garden Street to the north (though the 88,000 population figure corresponds to an expanded area of roughly Poplar Street south to Christian Street). If Vine Street is considered the northern border, then Center City occupies the boundaries of the city before Philadelphia County was added in 1854. The Center City District, which has special powers of taxation, uses a complicated, irregularly shaped boundary that includes much of this area but also extends beyond it. ThePhiladelphia Police Department patrols two districts located within Center City. The two patrol districts serving Center City are the 6th and 9th districts.
Among Center City’s neighborhoods and districts are Penn’s Landing, Old City, Society Hill, South Street/Head House District, Washington Square West, Market East, Chinatown, Logan Circle, the Museum District (located along the Ben Franklin Parkway), Rittenhouse Square, Fitler Square, theAvenue of the Arts (South Broad Street), and Jewelers’ Row.
Center City is home to most of Philadelphia’s tallest buildings, including Philadelphia’s City Hall, the second tallest masonry building in the world and until 1987 the tallest in Philadelphia, as well as the tallest building in the world for seven years. In March 1987, One Liberty Place broke the gentlemen’s agreement not to exceed the height of the statue of William Penn atop City Hall. Since the completion of One Liberty Place, no Philadelphia major-league sports team had won a world championship for the next two decades, a phenomenon known as the “Curse of Billy Penn.” In an effort to reverse the curse, a 3-foot statue of Penn was affixed to the top of the Comcast Center upon its completion as the city’s new tallest building in 2007. On October 29, 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series, effectively ending the “curse”.
Seven other skyscrapers now top the statue, including One Liberty Place’s little sister, Two Liberty Place. In 2005, construction began on the Comcast Center, which was completed in 2007 and is now the tallest building in Pennsylvania, 30 feet taller than One Liberty Place. Three proposed buildings — Mandeville Place, 1441 Chestnut, and Bridgeman’s View Tower — would also be taller than City Hall.
Across the street from City Hall is the Masonic Temple, the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, a legacy of the Founding Fathers and signers of the Declaration of Independence, many of whom were Freemasons; such luminaries include George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
While Philadelphia’s population has declined since the 1950s, Center City’s rose 10% between 1990 and 2000.
In 2007, the city designated the area bounded by 11th Street, Broad Street, Chestnut Street and Pine Street as the Gayborhood.
Sunoco has its headquarters in the BNY Mellon Center. Cigna has its corporate headquarters in Two Liberty Place. Aramark is headquartered in Center City. Comcast is headquartered in the Comcast Center. The law firm Cozen O’Connor has its headquarters in Center City.
Lincoln National Corporation moved its headquarters from Indiana to Philadelphia in 1999. In Philadelphia Lincoln was headquartered in the West Tower of Centre Square in Center City. In 2007 the company moved 400 employees, including its top executives, to Radnor Township from Philadelphia.