Over the past four decades, special services districts (also known as business improvement districts or district management organizations) have been established for the purpose of maintaining and improving downtowns and other areas within many cities. The histories of these organizations have been well documented, and the impact of their activities has been researched and assessed.1 However, the circumstances under which Philadelphia’s Center City District (CCD) was created and the major achievements of this organization are worth recounting for several reasons. The formation of the CCD and the staging of its activities over two decades illustrate how such an organization can have a transformative effect in revitalizing a downtown that had previously been in a condition of deep distress. Philadelphia’s experience also demonstrates the need for urban planning, so that opportunities that emerge in a constantly changing environment can be identified and pursued. A review of CCD milestones and performance measures also suggests ways in which an effective downtown management organization can be distinguished from others that have limited or negligible impact.