ULI Philadelphia Blog

Recap: Policy Game Changers

On Thursday, September 13th, regional real estate professionals convened at WHYY for the highly anticipated Policy Game Changers event featuring experts in city governance, branding, transportation and economic development. The distinguished panel featured Ed Rendell, Rina Cutler, Meryl Levitz, and moderator Tom Murphy. The discussion reflected on policies that have been transformational to our region and how Philadelphia should position itself to be a global competitor in the future. The ensuing discussion encompassed three primary pillars: policy, connectivity, and branding.

Former Mayor of Philadelphia and Former Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, emphasized the value of partnerships, good people, and government investment. According to Rendell, policy was crucial for Philadelphia’s growth; however, he also cautioned that Philadelphia is a “tale of two cities.” Philadelphia is experiencing great success and growth and yet the city also has the highest poverty rate in the country. While various factors contribute to the dichotomy, Rendell emphasized that to have true economic growth, the city must improve public education at every level.

Rina Cutler, Senior Director of Major Stations, Planning & Development at Amtrak and Former Deputy Mayor for Transportation & Utilities in Philadelphia, focused on connectivity. Historically, transportation has not been connected in a way that made sense financially or for mobility. She emphasized that Philadelphia needs a seamless integrated system where passengers can easily get between regional and commuter rails as well as the airport. While she acknowledged the challenges to get there, Cutler confidently emphasized that for Philadelphia’s success, “the future is in rail.”

Meryl Levitz, President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia, placed an emphasis on branding. For Philadelphia to hold true to its name as the City of Brotherly Love, it had to keep its promise of “we will love you back, you can achieve your dream here, be independent here.” While she has been behind Philadelphia’s most successful marketing campaigns, Levitz said “as mental as branding in, it all depends on the physical”, remarking that it comes down to the sky, the water, and the ground. For Philadelphia to be successful, it had to create a community where people could not only see the sky and water, but also see each other.

Together, the panelists explained how government, connectivity, and branding are equally vital for Philadelphia to remain relevant and continue to thrive in an ever-changing world.


Contributed by Nicole Robertson. Nicole is an MBA candidate at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and winner of the 2018 ULI Philadelphia Etkin Johnson Scholarship.

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