The Winter of Paul Levy’s Discontent

Paul Levy created Center City's success. So why isn't he satisfied?

PaulLevy_MARQUEE_by_NICOLAS-DEL-PESCOIf you complain about Center City trash now, then you probably didn’t live here 25 years ago, when, as Patrick Kerkstra evocatively writes, “Center City was awash in garbage: bulging Hefty bags, swirling pretzel wrappers, fetid dumpsters lurking in every alleyway.” The idea that some day there would be teal-clad men and women sweeping the streets and driving mini street cleaners would have been laughable, as would have Walnut Street comparisons to a suburban mall in King of Prussia. A lot has changed downtown in the last quarter-century-plus, and much of that is attributable to Paul Levy, the CEO of the Center City District. To sum it up:

With apologies to Ed Rendell, no Philadelphian is more responsible than Levy for transforming downtown from the hellhole of the 1980s to the archetype of intimate, walkable urbanity it’s become.

No apologies needed to Ed Rendell, actually. A mayor has a lot to do, and is theoretically responsible for the entirety of a city (something Rendell didn’t always cotton to). But Levy, well, he’s been the mayor of Center City, and if it weren’t for him, many argue, our downtown would still be a locus of crime, graffiti, and putrid odors.

For these reasons and more, Levy cuts a heroic, Robert Moses-like figure in Philadelphia. But this profile demonstrates that Levy, the man, is more complex — and not unlike Ed Bacon, a bit controlling when it comes to top-down decision-making. Not only that, but he’s frustrated and dissatisfied. Why? Click the link below to find out.

How Paul Levy Created Center City