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As some Philadelphia city employees head back to the office, Center City businesses see hope

Center City business owners happy with return to office push in Philadelphia
Center City business owners happy with return to office push in Philadelphia 02:03

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Municipal buildings in Center City will have a few more city staff walking through them this week. Monday was the first day roughly 70 City of Philadelphia employees were required to be back in their offices in person. 

On Feb. 23, Mayor Cherelle Parker's administration told all cabinet members, directors and direct reports in the Office of the Mayor, that they were required to be back in the office five days a week. 

It's a move Councilwoman Nina Ahmad said she fully supports.

"I understand that it's an adjustment for people, but I do think that I 100% support the mayor in this effort because we really need to bring Philadelphia back to its amazing potential," Ahmad said.

Ahmad said that, from the perspective of a council member, she wants to be able to direct people to in-person services when someone stops in her office.

"We need to make sure the constituents are getting prompt service. And that comes from people being at their phones and responding and being in person," she said. "Especially when it's a tense situation and we need to read what the constituent is feeling and how we are going to deliver those services, it's important to have that connection."

Though for now only 70 senior officials have been directed to return to the office five days a week, a spokesperson for the mayor said "it's an important first step" to bringing more foot traffic downtown.

The spokesperson did not provide any information about whether more people will be required to head back into the office. But David Wilson, president of AFSCME District Council 47, Local 2187, which represents 2,500 city workers, said many are starting to wonder if they, too, will receive similar communication from the mayor. He said many are opposed.

"I have talked to a lot of them who have said, 'hey listen, Dave, we are going to leave if this alternative work schedule goes away,'" Wilson said.

Wilson said many union members have become accustomed to a flexible work schedule, and many aren't willing to give that up. 

"In 2024, we would hope that the hybrid, flexible schedule that is the kind of schedule that we see many businesses have shifted to…the city would continue to remain on," he said.

Yet for Center City business owners, there's no replacement for having more people back in the city buildings. Raman Uddin has owned and operated a food truck in the area for 14 years. Monday, he said he saw four regulars he hadn't seen in years. 

"I'm happy. I'm so happy, you know what I mean?" Uddin said. "My customers are starting again."

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