The discovery was made Tuesday afternoon at 4:15 p.m.
Housing authority police made the discovery after neighbors complained of an odor coming from a dumpster.
"The suitcase was in there and you could smell it," said neighbor Guy Peterson. "The first police officer came and opened it and all you could see was maggots."
Philadelphia Police Lt. John Walker said it appears to be the partially decomposed body of a black woman and the body appears to be intact.
"It appears to be a female. I'm not sure of the age at this point," said Walker. "We're not sure when it was placed there, but we do know the trash from those two dumpsters was picked up from the housing sanitation department."
Police said it's possible that the suitcase was left for Monday's trash pickup.
Investigators said the body appears to be partially decomposed. Police cannot yet say how long ago she died. She did have some clothing on.
Late Tuesday afternoon kids and adults lined up to watch as detectives and the crime scene unit combed the parking lot.
The medical examiner arrived and removed the suitcase with the body still inside.
Neighbors said the discovery in broad daylight has them rattled.
"What if a kid played and found it?" resident Shayna Granger said.
The medical examiner is working to identify the body and determine the exact cause of death.