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Can Philadelphia Real Estate Benefit From The City's Association With Biden?

Philadelphia’s public and private sectors are optimistic about having a favored position with President-elect Joe Biden.

President-elect Joe Biden

Biden was born in Scranton and represented Delaware in Congress, and future first lady Jill Biden hails from South Jersey. Biden based his presidential campaign in the Centre Square office complex across the street from Philadelphia City Hall. Council member-at-large Derek Green was not shy about what he hopes that means for Philly when he spoke on Bisnow’s Philly 2021 Forecast webinar on Dec. 17.

“He’s had a deep and long-term connection to the city, and I think that provides an opportunity to shape some policies going forward in a way that’s beneficial,” Green said.

Biden’s connection could become more tangible if he nominates Comcast executive David L. Cohen, who will soon step down from his position as chairman of the University of Pennsylvania board of trustees, for a key national role. Cohen is seeking the nomination for either Secretary of Commerce or a major ambassadorship, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Outside of his status at two of Philadelphia’s biggest employers, Cohen is a longtime Democratic donor who hosted two fundraisers for Biden’s campaign in 2019, the Inquirer reports. Cohen was not listed among the favorites for the Commerce post in a recent report from The Hill, but his background in business suits what some in the private sector want from the position. 

Parkway Corp. President and CEO Robert Zuritsky expressed optimism that a Cohen nomination could provide a direct link between Philly’s business community and the White House.

“That could be an unbelievable opportunity for the region, because there’s no better, smarter advocate than him,” Zuritsky said.

Clockwise from top left: Philadelphia City Council member-at-large Derek Green, Parkway Corp. President and CEO Robert Zuritsky and Evolution Energy Partners Vice President Dailey Tipton

Whatever happens with Cohen, Biden’s history in the region and his old-school approach to relationships could prove beneficial for places like Philadelphia for which he feels affinity, panelists said.

“Because we have so many different relationships and connections to President-elect Biden — when I was in the Delaware Department of Justice as a securities regulator, I would see Biden on the train all the time — so there will definitely be opportunities to have the ear [of the president] and influence the administration’s policies,” Green said.

Though all discussion of potentially favorable connections is purely speculative at this point, panelists are confident that Biden will be less hostile to cities, especially those with heavily Democratic leadership, than his predecessor has been.

“It will be nice to have a president friendly to cities, rather than calling them cesspools,” Zuritsky said. “I mean, hello? Cities are the economic drivers of the nation, so it’s not great to humiliate them.”

Though Biden is in a position to bolster support for cities that President Donald Trump had withheld, especially in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Zuritsky reminded attendees that cities had been losing funding support long before Trump took office.

“I think the cities, in general, have been starved by the federal government and state governments for decades,” Zuritsky said. “That’s not to say that [Philadelphia] can’t do more with efficiency, waste and occasionally corruption, but I don’t think that cities have gotten what they deserved or needed with all the responsibilities that they have.”