FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PHILADELPHIA (December 7, 2023) – Center City District (CCD) and the Center City District Foundation (CCDF) raised more than $810,000 from supporters of A Gala Celebrating the Vision and Enduring Impact of Paul R. Levy, held on December 5 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The event brought together business, civic and community leaders to celebrate the work and legacy of CCD’s founding President and CEO Paul R. Levy since the District’s creation in 1991.
The gala was emceed by 6abc anchor Tamala Edwards and featured remarks from Jerry Sweeney, President & CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust and CCDF board chairman; Angela Val, President & CEO of Visit Philadelphia and CCD board member; Kenyatta Johnson, incoming Philadelphia City Council president; and Prema Katari Gupta, Executive Director of the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation and incoming President & CEO of CCD. The evening also featured performances by three of Center City’s renowned arts and culture organizations: The Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia and Philadanco.
“This event is about what we’ve accomplished together and the many things we have to still do to ensure a full recovery,” Levy said. “At the beginning in 1990, our founding chair Ron Rubin insisted on simplicity and getting the job done. We started with a focus on clean and safe, expanded into marketing, public spaces and parks and under Prema’s excellent leadership, CCD will continue to sustain these efforts while taking the organization in new directions.”
Net proceeds of the $810,000 in gross revenue raised from the event will be devoted to CCD’s homeless outreach partnership with Project Home, greening initiatives and new park projects that will enhance more areas of Center City.
“When Paul started at CCD, One and Two Liberty (Place) had just been built, and Center City was a dead zone past 5 p.m. Paul took on the challenge to create a new reality," Sweeney stated in his remarks. "Over the years, he launched bike safety patrol programs, a retail attraction campaign, our first Restaurant Week, Sister Cities Park, the Holocaust Memorial Plaza, and most recently the Rail Park."
Since its founding in 1991, CCD has invested over $150 million in capital projects across Center City under Levy's leadership. Major investments include an initial installation of 1,000 pedestrian light fixtures, 400 trees and 226 Walk!Philadelphia disk maps across Center City in 1996; new roadway fixtures and lighting of public art and significant buildings along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2004; the renovation of Dilworth Park in 2014; the completion of Phase I of the Rail Park in 2018; and streetscape and lighting enhancements across Jewelers’ Row in 2023.
In addition to capital investments, CCD spearheaded innovative sidewalk cleaning and safety programs, starting with the Community Service Representative (CSR) program in 1991. Since then, programs have expanded to include a graffiti removal program launched in 1994, the launch of the Ambassadors of Hope homeless outreach program with Project Home and the Philadelphia Police Department in 2018 and a bike patrol program launched in 2021.
To promote Center City as an attractive place to live, work, and visit, CCD spearheads several annual programs including CCD Restaurant Week, CCD Sips, the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink, Parkway Pals at Sister Cities Park and more. A more detailed list of select CCD milestones is noted on the following pages.
“Paul’s work resonates through the streets of Philadelphia, leaving our city significantly better than he found it,” Val said. “When Visit Philadelphia, then called Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, first started, it was our partnership with Paul and Center City District that helped us deliver on the promise that our destination marketing was making — that Philadelphia was a must-visit, vibrant city that every American needed to explore.”
Effective January 1, 2024, Gupta will succeed Levy as CCD’s President and CEO. At that time, Levy will assume the role of non-executive Chair of the Board and will assist with the transition, provide strategic guidance for the CCD and help advance several of the organization’s key initiatives.
“It’s an absolute honor to have to the opportunity to formally code Paul’s attributes — being smart, effective, generous, relentless, and optimistic — into our organization as we transition from founder-led to founder-inspired," Gupta stated.
Supporters of A Gala Celebrating the Vision and Enduring Impact of Paul R. Levy include Dilworth Sponsor Brandywine Realty Trust; Sister Cities Sponsors ABM, Comcast NBC Universal, FS Foundation and Urban Engineers; Collins Sponsors 6abc, Allan Domb Real Estate, Fashion District, Greenberg Traurig LLP, HBSE, Pearl Properties LLC, and Laura and Richard Vague; and Cret Sponsors Allied Universal, Audacy, Brickstone Realty, Connelly Foundation, CosciaMoos Architecture LLC, Cozen O’Connor, Day & Zimmerman, Sandy and Mike Dean, Dechert LLP, Drexel University, Duane Morris LLP, Five Below Foundation, Gattuso, Grant Thornton, Green Family Foundation - Firstrust, Hugh Wood Inc., JLL, Kaiserman Company, Lubert-Adler, National Real Estate Development, Neubauer Family Foundation, Parkway Corporation, PECO, Penn Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Philadelphia Foundation, Poor Richard’s Charitable Trust, Post Brothers, Rink Management Services Corporation, Savills, Seravalli Inc., Shelly Electric, Stockton Real Estate Advisors, UBS, Visit Philadelphia and WHYY. Additional in-kind support was provided by Perfect Communications.
Center City District, a private-sector organization dedicated to making Center City Philadelphia clean, safe and attractive, is committed to maintaining Center City’s competitive edge as a regional employment center, a quality place to live, and a premier regional destination for dining, shopping and cultural attractions.
A Timeline of Center City District Milestones and Achievements
In March 1991, Center City District is founded as a private sector sponsored business improvement district. CCD was created by the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC), authorized under the Pennsylvania Municipality Authorities Act and approved by Philadelphia’s City Council, to service 233 blocks of downtown Philadelphia with the goal of making the area clean and safe. To achieve this, CCD deployed the first class of Community Service Representatives (CSRs) and sidewalk cleaners. Easily recognizable in teal uniforms, they provided a welcoming presence and offered information, aid, and friendly smiles to pedestrians.
1992: Make it a Night, a campaign encouraging Center City businesses to extend their hours on Wednesday nights, is launched. CCD also launches its first Bike Patrol Program.
1993: CCD launches several initiatives to improve streetscapes, including a Streetlight Banner program and an Art in Transit program.
1994: CCD launches a routine graffiti-removal program. Additionally, CCD completes a renovation of Chestnut Park (now John F. Collins Park).
1995: CCD launches first retail attraction campaign and “Campaign for Real Change,” a campaign focused on better supporting homeless individuals in Center City.
1996: CCD publishes Turning on the Lights Upstairs, a major report on Center City’s large inventory of vacant older buildings, resulting in the 1997 passage of a citywide tax abatement program that encouraged developers to renovate old buildings. CCD invests $26 million into a streetscape improvement program that installed 1,000 pedestrian light fixtures, 400 new trees, and 226 Walk!Philadelphia disk maps. The Market Street East Improvement Association announces merger with CCD, adding Market East to the District’s boundaries.
2002: CCD facilitates the opening of a Community Court to address quality-of-life crimes and offering community service and social services in exchange for a suspended guilty plea.
2003: CCD Restaurant Week launches. CCD signs a long-term lease of parkland from the city at 16th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
2004: CCD Sips happy-hour campaign launches. Additionally, CCD completes a $5.3 million project on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with new roadway fixtures and lighting of public art and architecturally significant buildings, along with new permanent lighting at City Hall.
2005: New ride-on sidewalk cleaning “green machines” are introduced. CCD hosts the first Center City Elementary Schools Fair.
2007: CCD completes renovations of Aviator Park.
2008: Just in time for the holidays, CCD illuminated 11 grand building façades along South Broad Street’s Avenue of the Arts. Additionally, Cret Park and Café Cret open after CCD completes $2.3 million in improvements.
2011: CCD installs new lighting at 21st-23rd Street underpasses.
2012: Sister Cities Park and Café opens at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway after a $5.2 million renovation that transformed an unused 1.3-acre piece of land into a welcoming public space with a Children’s Discovery Garden. Additionally, John F. Collins Park at 1707 Chestnut Street was renovated and dedicated to the late landscape architect who first created this urban oasis.
2014: Opened in September after a two-year, $55 million renovation, the newly transformed Dilworth Park opens. The project established a well-lit, attractive, high-quality gateway to all of Philadelphia’s major underground transit lines, while also adding a café on the north side of the park and the Albert M. Greenfield Lawn.
2015: City Hall portal gates installed, and the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market debuts at Dilworth Park.
2016: The Wintergarden on the Albert M. Greenfield Lawn debuts at Dilworth Park, supporting local vendors throughout the holiday season.
2017: The Deck the Hall Light Show debuts at Dilworth Park. Storybook Weekend debuts at Sister Cities Park. CCD begins renovations of Holocaust Memorial Plaza.
2018: The first phase of the Rail Park opens to the public. CCD completes work on Holocaust Memorial Plaza. Pulse art installation opens at Dilworth Park. Ambassadors of Hope outreach program begins with Project HOME and PPD.
2019: At Dilworth Park, the Free in February ice skating promotion launches. Additionally, a new coffee kiosk opens in Dilworth Park.
2020: Bike lane planters on West Market Street and JFK Boulevard installation begins. Local artists commissioned to create colorful original artwork for closed storefronts.
2021: Ad campaign launches to promote restaurant take-out and delivery. CCD deploys expanded bicycle safety patrol. Rothman roller rink debuts at Dilworth Park.
2022: Bicycle safety patrol expands with added evening shift. Bathroom additions at John F. Colins Park.
2023: CCD introduces Center City Social and Center City Sunrise events to welcome office workers. CCD invests in new streetscape and lighting enhancements on Jewelers’ Row. Bikeway planters on West Market Street and JFK Boulevard. New pollinator gardens and bird-friendly safety glass enhancements are installed at Sister Cities Park and Café.