King of Prussia District Is So Over SEPTA – And Moving Forward With A Strong 2023
by Melissa Jacobs
SEPTA who? At a business event that could’ve doubled as a divorce party, King of Prussia District celebrated its recent accomplishments and pointed towards a very shiny future – without King of Prussia Rail.
The March 30 event was held days after SEPTA killed the rail project, a 4-mile extension of the Norristown High Speed Line that would’ve linked King of Prussia with thousands of commuters and visitors from Philadelphia and the surrounding counties. The seemingly sudden decision came after a years-long and very public relationship between SEPTA and KOP District.
“While I am disappointed that this is the end for KOP Rail, I do not regret the work that King of Prussia District put into this project,” Eric Goldstein, president & CEO of King of Prussia District, told the crowd. “While King of Prussia Rail would have enhanced our position, it does not define our future. Over $4 billion worth of economic development in the past 12 years is only the beginning.”
Goldstein’s statement echoed the break-up blog he posted when SEPTA’s decision was announced. “I am disappointed that we are not going to help the thousands of Philadelphia and Delaware County residents who are stuck on congestion-delayed buses trying to get to their jobs in KOP in a timely fashion,” Goldstein wrote.
“It is my biggest regret as they are now forced to continue riding buses that only have a 66% on-time performance,” Goldstein wrote, tossing some well deserved shade at SEPTA. “I am disappointed that we work in a region full of the word ‘or’ instead of ‘and.’ I have expressed this so many times in my time at King of Prussia District. On too many occasions we fail to aggressively work together as a region. Far too often we pit the city against suburbs in the decisions we make.”
Quite true, although it looks like the suburbs are winning. King of Prussia District’s 2023 Report To The Community heralded a litany of accomplishments for the region. In the past year, King of Prussia rebounded from its COVID setbacks and leapt forward to set new records of growth in real estate, retail, tourism and education.
Key findings from the 2023 Report to the Community include:
Employment trips to KOP increased to 67% of pre-pandemic levels, buoyed by an ever-increasing mix of business types that require work-from-work, while total trips (resident/employee/visitor) returned to 90% of pre-pandemic levels.
Investors and business confidence in KOP remains high, with 6 projects completed in 2022, and 21 in the pipeline.
King of Prussia’s commercial office market has rebounded strongly, with Class A vacancy below pre-pandemic levels (10.9% in 2023 vs 14.5% in Q1 2020)with Class A average rates higher than pre-pandemic levels ($33.20 price/SF in 2023 vs. $26.13 price/SF inQ1 2020).
Retail still reigns supreme in KOP, with King of Prussia Mall reaching 92.3% of pre-pandemic trips, and King of Prussia Town Center reaching 90.3%. In 2022, 53 restaurants and retailers opened in KOP, while at least 15 are planned for 2023.
With the second largest concentration of healthcare and life sciences outside of University City, King of Prussia continues to see growth in these sectors. Numerous prestigious companies in these industries are investing in their futures in KOP.
Upper Merion Area School District opened the doors to a new 300,000 SF, $150M high school in 2022. The state-of-the-art building is one of three new schools opened since 2018.
The District advanced a number of multimodal trail plans and studies that will increase connectivity in KOP, including: the connection of Moore Road with the First Avenue Linear Park the Schuylkill River West Trail; the connection of Valley Forge National Historical Park with The Village of Valley Forge via N. Gulph Road; and connectivity within for Renaissance Park.That work complements other improvements to the Chester Valley Trail Extension, Crow Creek Trail and Schuylkill River West Trail.
Marketing and Communications
In early 2022, the District launched a new and improved VisitKOP.com, with an interactive development map, small business directory and information about KOP’s booming healthcare and life science scene.
King of Prussia District rolled out HQ KOP in 2022, a multi-channeled marketing campaign targeting C-Suite executives to explore the many reasons why KOP is an ideal location to live and work.
King of Prussia District’s event roster surpassed pre-pandemic levels and included several new events, including KOP Wellness Week, and Igloo Garden on the Green, a dreamy pop-up dining oasis in KOP Town Center, which raised $15,000 for Upper Merion Area Community Cupboard.
King of Prussia District’s 2022 Tax Policy Report showed that Upper Merion Township ranked third lowest in terms of total tax burden on business, relative to competitive regional suburban jurisdictions.
Goldstein and his rock star staff have racked up an impressive list of achievements since King of Prussia District was founded in 2010 as a not-for-profit, 501(c)3, business improvement district. King of Prussia District’s message to the public: We’ll will be just fine without SEPTA. Thank you, next.
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