City Planning 642-001, Fall 2021

University of Pennsylvania
Wednesday, 8:30 am – 11.30 am                                             
Fisher Bennett 406                                                 

Paul R. Levy, President & CEO
Center City District  

Downtown Recovery: Decline, Rebound or Transformation?

Are downtowns done? Nineteenth century industrialization drew people from an agrarian setting to manufacturing cities. Deindustrialization, the mass production of the automobile and federal policies drew people and businesses out of U.S. cities to surrounding suburbs. In the last decades of the 20th century America’s cities rebounded as downtowns diversified their land-use, evolving from 9-5 office districts to 24-hour, mixed-use business, hospitality, retail, institutional and residential areas with an increasing number of well-managed parks and vibrant plazas. In many cities, housing demand pushed prices beyond the range of many residents.

Covid-19 has challenged many of the core assets around which these places have been built: public transit and the benefits of density, walkability and face-to-face interaction in the workplace, at conventions and meetings, in hotels, restaurants, cafes and public spaces. Pre-pandemic, cultural institutions, entertainment destinations and retailers were already facing strong competition from on-line alternatives. Many of these institutions and businesses closed for almost 18 months.

Can businesses and institutions in city centers rebound and recapture market share? Is the shift to virtual meeting platforms, flexible work patterns and ecommerce an acceleration of pre-existing trends, a profound transformation from which there is no going back, or a short-term phenomenon, after which cities will resume pre-pandemic patterns with only modest modifications? Is the migration of businesses and people of means out of dense cities a temporary phenomenon or a harbinger of the resurgence of suburbs and smaller towns and greater affordability in city centers? Will the dominance of a few of hyper-competitive, global cities that emerged after the turn of the century be challenged by the rise of lower-cost, less-dense alternatives?  

Are cities in nations that better contained the pandemic through strong and coordinated central government action and community cohesion faring better in recovery?  Are politics in the United States so fragmented as to have become dysfunctional and incapable of responding to this crisis? Are cities that were just beginning to confront the extreme economic and racial disparities that had emerged or been exposed in 21st century cities, able to embark on more inclusive strategies for growth, affordable housing social justice and public safety while facing severe, local fiscal constraints? What role will the national government continue to play on the path to rebound or transformation?

City Planning 642 will consider all of these issues and begins as we are wrestling with the spread of the Delta variant in the U.S. among the unvaccinated that has delayed the return to work for many businesses and further challenged retail, restaurants and public transit. In prior years, this course focused on public policy, but the primary emphasis was pragmatic with a focus on implementation: what can be achieved at the local level and how things get done in cities by public and quasi-public organizations, business improvement districts, real estate developers and other civic actors. The focus has been on doing, not saying.

This year will not be different. Recovery from the pandemic requires international coordination and cooperation, unprecedented actions by national governments, expedited production by pharmaceutical companies, well-designed and equitable distribution strategies. However, what happens on the sidewalks, in stores and restaurants, in office buildings, universities and local health care institutions, in residential neighborhoods, religious and social service institutions and in parks and public spaces may determine which cities rebound, which cities capitalize on this crisis to make needed changes and which places succumb to unresolved local challenges. This course focuses on what is and can be done at the local level.

Course work will consist of readings, lectures, guest lectures, student reports and observations and class discussions. Grades will be based on a first short report (10%); a mid-term (30%), a final paper (30%) and the level of participation in class discussions (10%).


  • Enrico Moretti, The New Geography of Jobs
  • Patrick Sharkey, Uneasy Peace


  • Robert Fogelson, Downtown: Its Rise and Fall 1880-1950
  • Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier
  • Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

(1) Course introduction and overview: Downtowns:
Inclusive or Exclusive? Declining, Rebounding or Being Transformed? (9/1/21) 

  • Class Presentation, 9/1/21: Planning Class, September 1, 2021 | PDF

Short-term perspectives: Four Snapshots Manhattan, London and Philadelphia

  • Matthew Haag, Manhattan Faces a Reckoning if Working from Home Becomes the Norm | LINK
  • Nelson D. Schwartz, Nicole Hong & Patrick McGeehan New York’s Economy, Poised for Comeback, Finds Setback Instead, New York Times, August 23, 2021 | LINK
  • Mike Phillips, "Here’s How Big A Chunk Covid Has Chomped Out Of London Office Rents" London, BIZ Now, August 19, 2021 | LINK
  • Monitoring Philadelphia’s Economic Recovery, Center City District August 2021 | Report Page

The Longer-term view: The impact of pandemics

  • Edward Glaeser, The Nemesis of Cities | LINK
  • Derek Thompson, How Disaster Shaped the Modern City. | LINK

(2) The city experienced on sidewalks & public places: (9/8/21)


  • Class Presentation, 9/8/21: Jane Jacobs & Vibrant City Life | PDF

Two Views of Walnut Street

  • Lydia Kulina-Washburn, Walnut Street is for the Dogs, Philadelphia Citizen, August 11, 2021 | LINK
  • Paul R. Levy, Believe in Walnut Street’s Future, Philadelphia Citizen, August 19, 2021 | LINK
  • Elijah Anderson, Chapters on the Reading Terminal Market and Rittenhouse Square, The Cosmopolitan Canopy | PDF
  • Jan Gehl & Birgitte Svarre, How to Study Public Life | PDF
  • Project for Public Spaces, “Elements of Great Places” | PDF

First assignment: While the weather is still warm, the class begins with some direct observation and analysis of two different pairs of public spaces in Philadelphia. Select one pair of parks and use several different evaluation methodologies.  This will serve as the focus for the first writing assignment.  

  • Compare the 1600 Block of JFK Boulevard to the 1600 block of Walnut Street
  • Compare Dilworth Park on the west side of City Hall, to Reyburn plaza in front of the Municipal Services Building on the 1400 block of JFK Boulevard.
  • Compare the beer garden at the Dow Building on the SW corner of 6th and Market Street with the public spaces surrounding the federal courthouse on the NW corner of 6th and Market

(3) The Origins, Decline & Revival of U.S. Downtowns; the role of BIDs (9/15/21)


  • Class Presentation, 9/15/21: What BIDs Do | PDF
  • Class Presentation, 9/15/21: Origins of Downtowns | PDF

Book Chapters:

  • Sharkey, Chapters 1-3


  • "The Benefits of Business Improvement Districts: Evidence from New York City," Furman Real Estate Center, NYU, July 2008 | PDF
  • "Starting a Business Improvement District in Philadelphia," The City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce and Drexel University’s Center for Public Policy, June 2012 | PDF
  • “Review of Business Improvement Districts in the U.K.” Institute of Place Management, Manchester Metropolitan University April 2019 | PDF
  • CCD Services; Plan & Budget for Center City District 2018-2022 | LINK
  • June CCD newsletter: focus on recovery | LINK

(4) The Great Divergence: Growing Cities in an Era of Populism and Nationalism; (9/22/21)


  • Class Notes, 9/22/21 | PDF
  • Moretti, Introduction & Chapter 1
  • Sifan Liu & Joseph Parilla, “Are Large Global Cities Pulling Away from their surrounding Regions,”  Brookings Institution, July 23, 2018 | PDF
  • Ben Casselman “Nashville’s Star Rises as Midsize Cities Break Into Winners & Losers” NY Times, 12/16/18 | PDF
  • Richard Florida & Joel Kotkin, America’s Post-Pandemic Geography, City Journal Spring 2021 | LINK
  • George Packer, How America Fractured into Four Parts, Atlantic, July 2021 | LINK

      Final Paper Due: Public Space Observations 4-5 pages with photos

(5) Growth & Equity: The Causes & Solutions for Income Disparities (9/29/21) 


  • Moretti, Chapters 2-4
  • Sharkey, Chapters 4-6
  • Branko Milanovic, “Global Inequality in this Century & the Next” from Global Inequality | PDF
  • Gene Balk,  “Will the last middle-class person leaving Seattle turn out the lights?” Seattle Times, April 14, 2017 | LINK
  • Timothy Egan, “Down and Out in San Francisco on $117,000,” New York Times, July 6, 2018 | PDF
  • Nellie Bowles, “They Can’t Leave the Bay Area Fast Enough,” New York Times, January 14, 2021 | LINK
  • Richard Shearer & Alan Berube, “The Surprisingly Short List of US Metro Areas Achieving Inclusive Growth” Brookings Institution, April 27, 2017 | PDF
  • CCD Report, “Getting More Philadelphians Back to Work: Business Density and the Role of Black and Minority Owned Businesses,” August 2020 | Report Page
  • China’s future economic potential hinges on its productivity, Economist, August 14, 2021 | PDF
  • New York Times, Warning of Income Gap, Xi Tells China’s Tycoons to Share Wealth | PDF

(6) Building a New Generation of Black and Brown Entrepreneurs (10/6/21)  


  • Class Presentation, 10/6/21: Addressing Global Inequality, Milanovic | PDF
  • ​Guest Speaker: Della Clarke, The Enterprise Center


(7) Office Recovery: Restructuring the Workplace & Remote Work (10/13/21)  


  • Class Presentation, 10/13/21: Downtown Office Sector Overview | PDF
  • Richard Florida, “The Death & Life of the Central Business District,” Bloomberg City Lab, May 14, 2021 | LINK
  • Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, The Downtown Office District Was Vulnerable. Even Before Covid., New York Times, July 7, 2021 | LINK
  • Kellen Browning It’s ‘Back to That Isolation Bubble’ for Workers Pining for the Office, New York Times, August 23, 2021 | LINK
  • CCD, State of Center City, 2021 Office Chapter | PDF
  • JLL Research, “Reimagining Human Experience, “How to embrace the new work-life priorities & expectations of a liquid workforce,” November 2020 | PDF
  • CBRE. “Life Sciences: Biotech Revolution Accelerates Demand for Lab Space” June 2021 | PDF
  • Guest Speaker:  Jerry Sweeney, President & CEO Brandywine Realty Trust  

(8) Downtown Living: Can Cities Make Room for Affordable Housing? (10/20/21)


  • Moretti, Chapters 5-7
  • Joe Cortright, Is Covid-19 the end of cities? | LINK
  • Paul R. Levy and Lauren M. Gilchrist, "Downtown Rebirth: Documenting the Live-Work Dynamic in 21st Century U.S. Cities," prepared for the International Downtown Association, October 6, 2013 | PDF
  • CCD, “Greater Center City Housing: 2021, Building on Resiliency” March 2021 | Report Page
  • Quentin Brummet & Davin Reed, “The Effects of Gentrification on the Well-Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Children” Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, July 2019 | PDF
  • “Booming Seattle struggles to stay affordable,” Economist, August 9, 2018 | PDF
  • Conor Dougherty, "In Vancouver, a Housing Frenzy Even Owners Want End” New York Times, June 3, 2018 | PDF
  • Joel Kotkin, “The Battle for Houston,” City Journal, August 15, 2018 | PDF
  • Jason Segedy, “Rust Belt Cities Need Investment, Not Gentrification Worries,” Strong Towns, April 6, 2018 | PDF

Midterm Essay due.

(9) Rethinking Public Safety (10/27/21)


Book Chapters:

  • Patrick Sharkey, Chapters 7-10
  • Ezra Klein interview with James Forman Jr. is a professor of law at Yale Law School and the author “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America” | LINK
  • Diana Ejaita, “Police reform is not enough. We need to rethink public safety.” The Washington Post, March 16, 2021 | LINK
  • “Is Police Reform Possible?" Interview with Police Commissioners Michael Harrison and Charles Ramsey, Penn PAIDEA program | VIDEO
  •  Paul R. Levy, “Rethinking Public Safety Strategies for Cities” The American Downtown Revitalization Review, July 2021 | PDF

Responding to Homelessness, Panhandling & Quality of Life Issues

  • Jennifer R. Wolch, "Explaining Homelessness," APA Journal, Autumn, 1988. | PDF
  • Don Kligerman, Fairmount Ventures, "Evaluation of Pathways to Housing," Philadelphia, January 2011 | PDF

(10) Developing and Leasing Retail in the Downtown (11/3/21)  


  • Class Presentation, 11/3/21: 13th Street Redevelopment | PDF
  • Center City Retail Chapter, State of Center City, 2021 | PDF
  • Michael J. Berne. “Retailers’ future still includes the store: Closing lots of stores and doubling down on digital is precisely the wrong thing to do”, August 21, 2018 | LINK
  • Market Street East and Chicago State Street case studies | PDF
  • Guest Speaker: Paige Jaffe, Managing Director JLL, Philadelphia

(11) BIDs Financing and Managing Park Improvements (11/10/21)


  • Class Presentation, 11/10/21: Dilworth Park Planning, Design, Construction & Operations | PDF
  • “Bryant Park: New York’s Town Square,” Bryant Park Corporation, 2018 | PDF
  • Bryant Park, New York City | 
  • Discovery Green, Houston, Texas |
  • Center City District Parks | 
  • Paul R. Levy, “Rethinking Parks” Center City Digest Summer 2019 | LINK     
  • Scott Kratz, “There’s plenty we can do about displacement in D.C.” Washington Post, June 22, 2018 | PDF 

(12) Guest Lecture (11/17/21)

  • Guest Speaker: John Grady, Senior Vice President, Northeast Region, Wexford | LINK
  • Growing Neighborhood Black & Brown businesses in Philadelphia | LINK

(13) Public Transit (12/1/21)

  • Guest Speaker: Leslie Richards, General Manager SEPTA


  • Patrick McGeehan, “Commuter Trains Have Kept Rolling. Will All Those Riders Ever Return?" New York Times, 8.28.21 | LINK
  • Jake Blumgart, “Big Changes Coming to D.C.’s Transit to Boost Ridership” Governing, August 20, 2021 | LINK
  • SEPTA fall update | LINK

(14) Final In-Class Presentations (12/8/21)