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Paul Levy To Step Down As Head Of Center City District

The end of an era is approaching in Philadelphia's Center City.

Paul Levy, center, listens to a fellow panelist at a Philadelphia Bisnow event in 2019.

Center City District President and CEO Paul Levy will step down from both positions at the end of this year as part of a two-year leadership transition plan, the organization announced Tuesday.

He will be succeeded by Prema Katari Gupta, who serves as CCD's vice president of parks and public realm and will continue in that role until she takes the reins Dec. 31.

In 2024, Levy will serve as nonexecutive chair of CCD's board, advising and assisting the transition before stepping away for good as the calendar turns to 2025, according to the announcement.

The succession plan was approved at CCD's board meeting on Tuesday, CCD chair and Brickstone Realty President John Connors said in the announcement.

The long transition period is fitting for CCD and Levy, the only CEO the organization has ever known since it was founded in 1991. His leadership and the visibility of his position made him a common figure at Philly business and civic events, including as a longtime regular on Bisnow panels.

“We wanted to maintain continuity while ensuring an orderly process of change," Connors said in a statement released with the announcement.

Under Levy's leadership, CCD built a series of programs and initiatives to make Center City more attractive to individuals and businesses alike. Perhaps the two most visible forms that CCD's work has taken are the organization's team of public space beautification workers and its research on the economic health of Philly's downtown core.

Since the pandemic's onset, CCD's street team has increased its activities to emphasize public safety, including coordination with the nonprofit Project Home to offer supportive services for the homeless population in Center City, the announcement says. Its research on pedestrian foot traffic and office worker occupancy have similarly grown in importance for assessing Philly's recovery efforts.

“I have known Prema for nearly 20 years," Levy said in a statement. "She started at CCD only three weeks before the pandemic changed everything. Amid the many challenges that Center City faced in the weeks and months that followed, her expertise, ideas and leadership were instrumental.”

Gupta joined CCD after serving for six years as the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp.'s senior vice president of planning and real estate development for the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In that position, she led PIDC's involvement in the public-private partnership. Before that, she held the position of planning director for University City District, CCD's counterpart across the Schuylkill River.