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Could make area safer University officials met last week with Center City District leaders to discuss implementing a program of special community services for University City. The meeting, organized by Executive Vice President John Fry, focused on what the CCD is doing to make Center City cleaner, safer and more attractive. Paul Levy, head of the CCD, explained that the district was created by a Pennsylvania law that allows for the taxation of businesses within the region. In return, the district is provided with an extra level of service. "The University has demonstrated a strong interest in looking into tools that improve the area surrounding the University," Levy said. Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said the program might be applicable to the University and its surrounding community. "The CCD is doing something very useful," she said. "We want to know which programs might apply to our area." More than 2,000 property owners, commercial tenants and employers in Center City created the district, which is a private sector organization, in 1990. The organization aims to maintain its district's competitive edge as a regional employment center and a primary tourist destination. Property owners agreed to fund the CCD through assessments, equal to five percent of a property's real estate tax bill, paid directly to the CCD. The district serves an 80-block area, extending from the Liberty Bell to 30th Street Station. Levy said the organization has helped to remove graffiti from the downtown area completely and reduce crime by 23 percent. Services offered by the CCD include a police sub-station, special trash pick ups, sidewalk cleanings, street paving and additional lighting. At first, some were reluctant to pay for services that many considered to be responsibilities of the city, Scheman said. "They have learned that the services improve street life, safety and night life," she said. "We're interested in how they have been successful. "Some graduate students might choose to live in Center City because of the services," Scheman added. "But the University is a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour community. I would like them to live here." In addition, distinctly uniformed Community Service Representatives patrol downtown on foot as additional watchdogs for the police and as ambassadors to welcome visitors, workers and residents to the city. The CSRs also are trained to deter panhandling and provide daytime outreach services to homeless persons. "When they began the district, they did not intend to deal with homelessness," Scheman said. "They quickly discovered that they needed to. Our people have talked with their people to see what has worked." The organization began a campaign discouraging hand-outs of money. Instead, they encouraged people to donate money to organizations that gives food to the homeless. The South Street District, created three years ago, also provides services between Front and 9th streets. Levy said that most other American cities have districts similar to those in Philadelphia. More than 1,000 business improvement districts exist in the United States and Canada, Levy said. "It is a growing international phenomenon," she said.

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