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River Wards Existing Conditions

PCPC staff and partner City agencies created a series of existing conditions memos to kick off the River Wards District Plan. Read our existing conditions memos.

River Wards District at a Glance

Since 2000, the population of the district has grown approximately three percent and by 2010, the district had a total population of 68,749. By 2020, it is projected that the district will continue to grow and have a population of 72,006 (DVRPC & PCPC). Since 1980, the River Wards District has become younger and more racially diverse. While the black and Asian populations in the River Wards district remain below the citywide average (43 percent and six percent, respectively), both groups are growing and as of 2010 the black population was 11 percent of the population and the Asian population was 2.5 percent.


While the River Wards District may once have anchored Philadelphia’s claim to be the “Workshop of the World,” today the district’s economy is known not only for industry, but also for retail, health care, educational, and food service enterprises, which together represent the largest sectors of the district’s economy. Today’s diversified economy is evident in the names of the district’s largest employers: the School District of Philadelphia, Northeastern Ambulatory Care Center, Philadelphia Police Department, Allied Security, ICS Corporation, Cramco Inc., Home Depot, and the United Parcel Service (UPS).

As of 2011, the industrial sector provided 7,005 jobs, or 39 percent of total employment, within the district. Primary concentrations of industrial uses are located adjacent to transportation infrastructure.



Nearly all transportation modes are well-represented in the River Wards District. Located between Center City and Northeast Philadelphia, significant transportation infrastructure traverses the district, including I-95 and the elevated Market-Frankford Line. Along with convenient automobile, bus, trolley, and train access, the district is also bordered on the east by the Delaware River, making it one of the districts within the city fortunate to have port access.


The built environment influences how we interact with the world: what we eat, how we travel, and how often we play and exercise. Healthy eating and active living relate to our risk for developing chronic disease conditions including, but not limited to, heart disease, obesity, asthma, and cancer. The success of Philadelphia2035, and the sustainability of the River Wards District, depends on the continued health of its residents. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) has partnered with the PCPC to create healthy communities that promote healthy lifestyles. This means that healthy choices are easier where we live, work, learn, shop, and play.

The district’s 18 percent unemployment rate has left many residents underinsured and overburdened. The departure of the Northeast Hospital in 2009, the district’s only emergency room and inpatient care facility, and the absence of a neighborhood Health Center continue to pose additional challenges to accessible healthcare. In addition, 30 percent of adults report foregoing needed care. Portions of the district are also burdened with six times its share, in comparison to the city, of drug and poison overdose emergency calls.

A legacy of intense industrial and transportation activity in the district has blocked recreational access to the waterfront and other open space resources, and has led to higher-than-average concentrations of pollutants that contribute to the city’s highest asthma hospitalization rates.




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