Before developer Tony Goldman, who died yesterday, revitalized Wynnwood, Miami, and Miami Beach, he bravely came to Philly from New York to reinvent 13th Street. The skepticism surrounding his Philadelphia venture was entrenched and fierce, despite (or maybe because of) Goldman's unfailing optimism. Goldman seemed to know he could make change happen in this very stubborn town, and—if all else failed—get things done through the sheer force of his personality and will.
For those who don't remember 13th Street between Chestnut and Walnut in the 1990s, it wasn't a pretty sight. It was a hub for streetwalkers: At night there were so many of them, it looked like a red light district. Drug dealers lined the streets and sold there, and addicts went to score. As the Center City District's Paul Levy told the Inquirer today, the area was "the deterioration capital of Center City." Former City Councilman Frank DiCicco remembers it the same way: "It was a scary place."
Goldman saw it as a challenge, the same way he'd seen Soho as a challenge years before that. Now that stretch has all kinds of boutiques and, of course, El Vez, which Goldman persuaded Stephen Starr to open.
One thing Goldman loved about this city was its architecture. He believed if you swept all the porn shops away and preserved buildings appropriately, the area—which came to be known as Midtown Village—could thrive. For a sense of just how right he was, check out Midtown Village's Fall Festival on Oct. 6th.
· Tony Goldman, 68, visionary who revitalized Philadelphia's 13th Street [Inquirer]
· South Beach, Wynwood developer Tony Goldman dies at 68 [Miami Herald]
· A Tony Goldman Exposed Brickapalooza Gets $100K Chop [CPHI]