Op-ed in the Philadelphia Daily News - August 7, 2008
As a senior in college, the "real world" is fast approaching. And one
question sits on all seniors' minds: Where will I be living this time
Many of my peers love the idea of the "New York experience." The
Big Apple's larger-than-life aura is dreamlike - avenue after avenue of
bright lights with no off switch. To me, it seems nightmarish. What
about the sky-high rents, the congestion, the noise?
I recently spent a week in "the city." Sure, it was fun, but I quickly reached my limit. I missed my real city - Philadelphia.
Like my fellow students, I adore Philadelphia's attractions:
Reading Terminal Market for Saturday morning brunch, the Art Museum for
cultural enrichment, Citizens Bank Park for evening ball games.
Yet, too often, my peers take in their experiences with only one
eye. The other is focused on the future, seeking something grander.
They have no intention of paying back the city that's nurtured them for
I'm not saying that everyone should feel obligated to stay in the
place where they went to college. But while Philadelphia is most often
celebrated for its historic past, it's approaching a bright future
faster than ever. Students in the City of Brotherly Love should feel
especially enthusiastic about staying after receiving their diplomas.
Philadelphia is growing. In a literal sense, the rising skyline
continues to leave City Hall's William Penn in its shadow. Just months
before the completion of the 975-foot Comcast Center, local developer
Walnut Street Capital proposed another skyscraper: the 63-story,
1,500-foot American Commerce Center. These structures will add to an
already impressive downtown skyline - a source of pride visible from
almost anywhere in the city, from the campuses in University City to
the cobblestone streets around Independence Mall.
Aside from aesthetics, these buildings will stimulate growth.
Comcast has already moved its headquarters downtown, and the Commerce
Center will undoubtedly attract more business to the city. Mayor Nutter
aims to eliminate the business-privilege tax. More businesses mean more
jobs, more money in the local economy, more prosperity.
Philadelphia is affordable. When graduates are lured north by
premier business firms, what they gain in their paychecks they lose in
quality of life. According to CNN, as recently as 2006, living in
Manhattan cost a whopping 138 percent above the national average for
cities. As of 2007, Philadelphia's cost is about 7 percent below the
On real estate alone, a midtown Manhattan 500-square-foot studio
apartment starts at almost $3,000 a month. In the heart of Center City,
an apartment of comparable size rents for half that. With similar
ratios seen for buying real estate, I can't help but believe that
choosing to live in Philadelphia might be the best financial decision I
could make for years to come.
While the decision to stay makes sense on a practical level, above all else, it appeals to a deeper desire for a good home.
Philadelphia has all the perks of a big city with a small-city feel.
Nearly everything in the 30 blocks between the rivers is within an
hour's walk, from the shopping district in upscale Rittenhouse Square
to theaters and galleries on the Avenue of the Arts to historic
landmarks like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Philadelphia has personality. Surrounding the central hubs of
Center City and Fairmount Park, the city hosts a diverse collection of
neighborhoods. As Philadelphia continues to expand, each territory has
preserved a unique local character. And unlike New York City, traveling
into a different neighborhood does not feel like entering a distant
world. I may live in West Philadelphia, but I feel equally comfortable
venturing into Bella Vista or Northern Liberties.
Mayor Nutter, a Wharton alum who stayed in Philadelphia after
graduation to work in municipal finance, is already working on
retaining college students by creating the Office of College and
University Development to provide graduates with more job
Meanwhile, Campus Philly is a non-profit promoting students to stay
in the greater Philadelphia area by creating a hub to share community
outreach and career opportunities. Recently, Campus Philly got a
$300,000 grant to help sell imminent graduates on establishing a life
I'm proud to say they won't need to spend a penny on me. I've made
my decision. I love the City of Brotherly Love. I've adopted
Philadelphia as my city and my home.
Now, to keep it that way, I just need Philadelphia to adopt me permanently - with a job offer.