By Ben Seal
As he reflected on the path taken in the past two decades to turn University City into a booming neighborhood with all the markers of a 21st century success story, Drexel University President John Fry couldn’t help but look to the future. Speaking Thursday at World Café Live as part of the 20th anniversary celebration for the University City District (UCD), Fry gazed toward a future of medical breakthroughs, reimagined retail corridors, expansive community spaces and high-quality education for residents of all ages.
“I see a University City where innovation and inclusion combine to further strengthen the competitive position of our institutions while creating even greater opportunities for residents who will live in increasingly safe, diverse and vibrant neighborhoods,” Fry said.
As the founding chairman of UCD, an organization formed in 1997 to revitalize the West Philadelphia neighborhood, Fry described going door to door all that time ago to ask 25 institutions and individuals to become founding members and pledge their financial support to help turn around University City. He and the UCD quickly raised more than $20 million to get the effort off the ground. The voluntary nature of the support and the UCD’s drive to get neighborhood groups involved in the process were key factors in the success the organization has seen in the past 20 years, he said.
The UCD set out with simple principles in mind, Fry said: clean, safe and well-lit streets, and no graffiti.
“It’s safe to say the UCD has more than lived up to its goal of changing places and changing lives,” he said.