The Power Fifty 2009

What This List Is: Our ranking of the most influential Philadelphians. What This List Isn’t: A rehash of the usual suspects

36. Paul Levy, influencer
President, Center City District
2005: 39 :: 2000: 33

The Center City District grew up in the 1990s sweeping sidewalks. Now, in its 19th year under Levy, CCD is pushing real money all over town for visible city-boosting projects, like creating the first freestanding cafe on the Ben Franklin Parkway, at 16th Street, and redoing Aviator Park across from the Franklin Institute. By focusing on doable, high-impact projects, Levy, 62, has deftly navigated roller-coaster economics and local politics. (Honestly, we wish he’d just run for something already.) But CCD’s biggest plan yet, a proposed $45 million rethink of Dilworth Plaza around City Hall, will test his track record.

37. Zack Stalberg, willpower
President and CEO, Committee of Seventy
2005: 23 :: 2000: 24

Now almost five years into running the ethical watchdog group Committee of Seventy, Stalberg, 62, is pushing Mayor Nutter to see the economic mess as an opportunity to shrink and modernize his government. The group backs its goading with well-researched and bold reports on issues like eliminating patronage jobs and reforming the BRT. Stalberg runs comfortably with the power crowd — Seventy’s board includes everyone from Bill Sasso (see #18) to Judee von Seldeneck (see #28) — but with his two-decades-plus stint as editor of the Daily News, he’s got the goods to agitate for change from within that same crowd. He even landed Veep Biden as a guest at this fall’s Seventy fund-raiser.

38. Ron Rubin, transformational
Chairman and CEO, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust
2005: 18 :: 2000: 21

The 78-year-old Rubin has slipped on our list because he’s more involved in developing malls up and down the East Coast than building in the city, and his last big enterprise in town may be a slots parlor. Still, he was instrumental in rebuilding downtown by pushing for creation of the Center City District and developing or renovating a score of big buildings (including a refitting of part of the old Strawbridge’s for state government offices over the past year). Plus, he remains a go-to guy for Democratic fund-raising and adept at working City Hall to greenlight projects.

39. Meryl Levitz, influencer
CEO, Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation
2005: 49 :: 2000: 44

Ever since Rendell slated Levitz, 62, to run GPTMC in 1996, the industry’s taken off (worth an estimated $9.3 billion each year in economic impact; responsible for more than 88,225 jobs). It’s almost all thanks to Levitz’s ability to constantly reinvent the plan (i.e., Philly should market itself to overnighters, should market itself to gays, and, now, should market itself to African-Americans ages 25 to 35) and constantly reengage the city brass with fresh ideas.

40. Sharon Pinkenson, willpower
Executive Director, -Greater Philadelphia Film Office
New to list

Pinkenson, 61, has helped turn Philadelphia into a filmmaking center. Jack, Reese, Jake, Demi and Jamie wouldn’t be sipping champagne at Parc and brunching at Du Jour if not for her vision. Her most impressive performance has been in Harrisburg, where conservative uplanders have sought to end the “subsidy for Hollywood” tax. With Rendell as her ally, she got the film tax credit partially preserved. Though the Film Office has created an infrastructure — studios, labor arrangements, street closings and production teams — that’s made Philadelphia a film director’s dream, we worry that losing Rendell might dash our dreams of getting discovered.