Thursday, May 8, 2014

Paul Levy is determined to make Philadelphia better ... for everyone

Paul Levy in Center City, PHL | Image courtesy of Hidden City Philadelphia

He has been called the "King of Center City," and "one of Philadelphia's most powerful people." To me, he is both a game-changer and a man with vision.

Paul can see what most people don't see, and he can also see the path to get there. His visionary approach to changing Center City for the better has resulted in more development, more restaurants, more overall investment, and a new Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Needless to say, this guy just finds a way to get things done.

I have always been a big fan, and take the time to read articles that are either written about him or are written based on an interview with him. It's cool to see someone who has a plan, and is able to stick with that plan for over two decades.

This article is a good way to see what Paul is currently working on for our beloved city. In traditional PUL fashion, here is the breakdown:

1. The Road to Dilworth Plaza Park: This was one that Paul pushed for a while, and it's now set for completion at the end of 2014. The multi-million dollar transformation will take "Dilworth Plaza" from a stale, outdated, granite-ridden nothing into a usable, sustainable, public green space (which will then be referred to as "Dilworth Park"; nice touch). There will be greenery, fountains, public art (which is a standard for Philadelphia), a skating rink, and a new cafe. Think of it as a new kind of Rittenhouse Square, only with a castle in the middle, easy access to trains/subways, and a new place to eat. It's a great project, and should help jump-start all of the proposed projects/speculation for Market East; including a reimagination of The Gallery.

2. The Public/Private Partnership: Otherwise known as CCD, or the Center City District. What a beast the CCD has become in changing Center City for the better. Let's clean the streets ... check. How about some better lunch/dinner options ... check. Let's get some more people to live down here ... check. Oh, let's light the streets better, create more places to hang out, spruce up the Parkway, and just make Center City awesome ... check. So, how does he do this? There is no clear cut answer, but in general Paul is able to bridge the gap between city/state government and private corporations/companies. The result, Center City is booming and better than ever today.

3. CCD has transformed Center City into one of the most livable downtowns in the US: Center City Philadelphia has history, it has modern amenities, it has a fantastic food/shopping scene, it has great parks, and it's considered the 3rd Most-Populous Downtown in the US. With suburbs garnering less attention these days, and cities getting more attention daily, "downtown" (in any major US city) is its heart and soul. It's the core, the base, the identity. This is why Philadelphia is growing and getting a more notable national reputation. Do we have our fair share of issues? Yes. Political corruption, poverty, litter? Yes. Slow to get things done? Yes. But ... it's slowly starting to change. Philadelphia is an exciting place to be, and the energy is contagious. Paul Levy is a big reason why Philadelphia has so much momentum today.

Another day, another soap box.

Being that I was raised just outside the city's northern boundary (What's up, Abington), some may say I'm a bit biased; fair enough.

But if you have been away from Philadelphia for a while, or have moved away altogether, here is my advice to you. Look at your calendar, plan a visit to Center City on a sunny spring/summer day, keep an open mind, and my guess is that you will also see what I am seeing ... progress.

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