Center City District Celebrates 20 Years of a Fantastic Job; Plus Natalie Portman pops into

PhillyChitChatter Wednesday March 30, 2011:

Natalie Portman had dinner last night with fiance Benjamin Millepied at Zahav restaurant, 237 St. James Place. The 29-year-old Israeli-born actress and Millepied, a well-regarded ballet dancer and choreographer, met during the making of Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller that stars Portman as a ballet dancer and garnered her an Oscar. Last week Portman’s ballet body double, Sarah Lane, told Entertainment Weekly. The actress and those involved in the movie deny that. Millepied is in town working with the Pennsylvania Ballet on “Building on Balanchine,” which is part of the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts and can be seen starting April 14 to 17 at the Merriam Theatre. Daily News Gossip columnist Dan Gross reports the Natalie Portman did a little shopping on Walnut Street at Joan Shepp’s yesterday afternoon. You’ll recall that last week I reported Anne Hathaway had stopped by Shepp’s to pick up a dress to wear to her cousins wedding at the Crystal Tea Room. Sounds like we have a new “Store of the Stars.”
Last night I attended an event for an organization that I really respect, the Center City District, which over the past twenty years created a safe clean environment which produces pride among it’s employees and the people of Philadelphia, it stimulated growth as well as increased tourism, all towards creating a 24hr walkable city.
In March 1991, the Center City District (CCD) set out to revive Philadelphia’s downtown, which was widely perceived as dirty, dangerous and dull. The goal of this private-sector sponsored business improvement district (BID) was to accomplish nothing less than a re-creation of Center City, to transform an intimate-scaled, walkable, 17th-century street grid into a vibrant 24-hour, 21st century city – attractive to businesses, residents, shoppers and tourists. At the top of the list was restoring the basics: making Center City clean and safe.
Initiatives such as “Turning on the Lights Upstairs” encouraged building owners to renovate and rent vacant upper floors. It led to passage of a citywide 10-year tax abatement. “Make It a Night” galvanized shopping and dining with free parking and later hours. The CCD helped building owners update their properties with a “Façade Improvement Matching Grants” program. It offered a “Campaign for Real Change” to help tackle the homeless problem.
The transformation of Center City’s clean streets began with a few key people, including the continuous leadership of President and CEO Paul R. Levy. Above Paul toasts with his guests to another 20 years of success. L-R CEO of the Philadelphia-based Parkway Corporation Joseph Zuritsky, Ron Rubin, Chairman of PREIT and Mayor Nutter in the back row.
Many of Philadelphia’s movers, shakers, politicians and alumni of CCD came out to the Hyatt at The Bellevue to celebrate the milestone, like former DA Lynne Abraham who confirms she is going to run for Pennsylvania Attorney General, former Gov Ed Rendell (great column in Daily News today), who in his speech thank his wife Midge Rendell for being a champion of the Center City District as well as the Avenue of the Arts, Mark Focht, Paul Steinke, Fred A. Shabel is Vice-Chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, Chef George Perrier, Happy Fernandez, Larinda Byers, Feather Houston, Judge Rendell, David Thornburgh, Debra kahn, Morgan and Cora Levy, Ella Komita-Moussa, Nancy Goldenberg and Tony Peopitone.
Allen Domb, Daniella and Louis Barson. No doubt Natalie Portman will be making many stops at their deli, Schlesinger’s, Philadelphia’s premier Jewish-style delicatessen, on Locust Street around the corner from the Merriam Theater.
Philadelphia Inquirer’s film critic since 1986 Carrie Rickey (Flickgrrl) with close friends who’s names I didn’t catch.
But I do know these folks, Chef’s Marcie Turney, James Kenngott and PJ Verrath (we all headed to visit our pal Chef Jen Carroll at Ten Arts after-wards for a little night cap. James is the new chef at Lolita, he had previously been at Bindi. Marcie & James tell me they are going to shake it up a little at Lolita, change the menu, change the table tops and put a little lipstick on the old girl. SOUNDS exciting.) Marcie also told me she and brother Evan Turney are going to butcher school next week. Look for a whole lotta meat to be added to the menu’s at all the restaurants the Turney’s operate.
RJ White and Keri White, no relation, but dressed complimentary.
Barry Killian, Michelle Shannon, VP of marketing and communications for CCD and Chad Angeli
Sharon Phillips Waxman, Greta Greenberger, and Bonnie Grant. Bonnie tells me that singer Lauren Hart was shooting a video for the past two days to promote Philly as a great destination for health care meetings. The shoots were at the Convention Center, PAFA and Drexel’s Science Pavillion.
Justin Fine Ru la La Philly, Cashman & Assocs Laura Krebbs and Michael Steinberg.
Joey and Janis Roberts check out the goodies at the R2L table. As part of the PIFA Chef Pairings: On April 13-15, R2L is hosting Chef Babette de Rozieres of La Table de Babette in Paris. A native of Guadeloupe, Babette specializes in Caribbean cuisine and will prepare special menu additions
Deputy of City of Representative Margaret Hughes with Where Magazine Publisher Laura Burkhardt . Still no word on who is going to be our July 4th entertainment this year. Mums the word on my tip that I hear it’s going to be Stevie Wonder. We’ll see.
Cushman & Wakefield crew: Missy Quinn, Maria Hatzivasilis, Jill Scarlett and Stewart Brown. Look for THE PHLASH BUS to return to the streets on May 1. Dale McFarlane, Missy Quinn, Bruce Shelly, President/Director of Operations at Shelly Electric Company Inc and Rich McClure. Bruce tells me he’s gonna have a big tailgate party for the Phillies on Friday and to come on over. I told him first up I have to see WMGK’s John DeBella do the “Blessing of the Opening Day Balls” at 8:30PM. Also on hand will be Pastor Jeff Raffauf, of West Lawn United Methodist Church; Father Joe Campellone, President of Father Judge High School; and Rabbi Gregory Marx, of Congregation Beth Or will be doing 3 separate blessings. MGK’s Debbi Calton will take over the live broadcast and continue broadcasting until 2p.
Marian Conicella, Publisher, Philadelphia Magazine, Ben Frank, CCPA and Debbie Hogan. Marian and I were comparing schedules and she is as booked as I am this week.
Drew Becher, 36th President of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, David Wagaman, Owner of Capriccio Cafe Cret and Jeff Miller, GM Hyatt at the Bellevue. David tells me that on 4/22 coffee is on him as long as you bring in your own mug. It’s Earth Day let’s save the Planet.
Alan and Greta Greenberger. You know from previous posts that I’ve known this duo for about 13 years now. I used to volunteer for Greta on my lunch hours, she used to sell my photo greeting cards in the City Hall Tour Store, and I will be giving the 12:30PM tour on Tuesday’s soon. I just haven’t had a moment free to start. Crazy busy every since I started my photography business. I didn’t ask Alan any questions about what’s going on in the City. I try not to mix our friendship with business, but he’s the City Planner and I think Dilworth Plaza is going to be great. I will say Happy Birthday Alan, as I know it just went by March 15 and I forgot to wish him well. (I love that the banners that hang from the poles on the street, have been coverted to table clothes and tote bags you can buy.)
Mary Hannah, CSR Manager CCD, Sampan’s Christopher Masi, Khamla Vongsakow and Michael Wirzberger, GM. Look for Sampan to start serving brunch on April 9th. It’s gonna be like Bagatelle in NYC, music, party and fun. The boys are planning on serving Dim Sum and have tricked out two custom Dim Sum carts from which they will distribute food. There’s nothing like it going on in Center City.

The crew & alumni at Center City District. Well done, well done. Sweet!!

Some of Center City’s favorite restaurants participated in the celebration including Le Bec Fin (another long established business in Center City), Barclay Prime, Bistro St. Tropez (the other restaurant that is high in the sky with a great sunset view), Max Brenner, Morimoto, Cooperage, Chima, Garces Trading Post and others