In an exclusive interview, U-Turn has learned that Allan Domb – "the Center Center condo king" - is being courted by high-powered real estate developers and businessmen to run for mayor.
Domb denies he is considering a run. But in a wide-ranging discussion with U-Turn, he sounded like a candidate with a full platform and talking points.
"I have been asked by many to consider running for Mayor, but at this time I am not a candidate," he said. "I love Philadelphia and will always put the interests of our city first."
Domb, who is president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors (GPAR), is bullish on the city's future.
"The next 10 to 20 years is a very exciting time for Philadelphia. Baby Boomers and Millennials all want to live in urban environments, and we have many affordable options. Our retail environment has improved dramatically and we are seeing the suburban wealth shift into the city."
Rumors have been swirling in the real estate brokerage community the past month that Domb, 59, was "testing the waters" for a potential run. Domb, who is registered as an Independent, did not directly rule out running the nation's fifth largest city, nor did he indicate under which party banner, if any, he would run – now or in the future.
Sam Katz, an international business consultant, filmmaker and three-time Republican candidate for mayor, had nothing but praise for Domb.
"Allan is a very unique Philadelphian. He has an unbelievable work ethic. He is his own energy hub. He has an instinct for achievement," Katz said. "I would not underestimate his capacity to accomplish anything including success in politics."
Katz, who declined to talk about his own political aspirations, will have the eighth episode of his TV documentary, "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment," air tonight.
Accolades have also traveled around the brokerage community.
Mike McCann, one of the city's top brokers, responded enthusiastically to a potential Domb candidacy.
"Allan Domb would be a person that brings people together to bring out the best in them," McCann said. "He would work with all people and bring great solutions to all the problems and issues of Philadelphia. He would be a great mayor."
Christopher Somers, who serves as the treasurer at GPAR, works closely with Domb at the local trade association.
"Allan has been instrumental in transforming GPAR from 'the voice of real estate' to 'the voice of Philly.' His leadership has extended to having thoughtful ideas on so many levels including AVI, tax abatement and collecting delinquent funds owed to the City from real estate taxes, PGW and WRB," Somers said. "If any of these efforts are implemented, there is a high probability that the school district will benefit immensely, not to mention taxpayers and homeowners."
Domb, who is slated to begin his third consecutive year as president of GPAR, was sounding mighty mayoral in a lengthy email he sent me regarding his vision for the City of Philadelphia.
Among the highlights:
"We need to change our curriculum and teach practical skills to our students from kindergarten thru 12th grade ( How to get a job, How to be a parent/adult, How to save money, etc.). We need companies like Comcast/Urban Outfitters/ARA, etc to adopt schools and develop curriculum that is specific to their industry. This would enable these companies to hire our trained high school graduates and provide them with employment right from high school. There are many jobs paying 40 to 75k in these companies that our high school students could then obtain and see a path as to why they should stay in school and graduate. This would also solve the outcry of companies that we do not have a trained work force. We could also use our schools to attract companies outside of Philadelphia by offering them their own training high schools."
"We could also approach our colleges here and ask them all as community service to have college students mentor our public school students."
"Our public education system must be funded properly and have a true dedicated funding source. City Council also needs to regain control of the schools. The state has not done all they could do. We need to evaluate all teachers and eliminate those that are not performing and increase the pay of those that do perform. Education is an investment in our city and we need to view it that way and pay our good people more money and become more attractive than our suburban counterparts. Our teachers will guide our future thru our students. We need to compensate and respect them."
"We believe an expansion of the 10-year tax abatement to 20 years for all homes under 250k avi value will benefit. We are taking a very successful program and doubling its benefits to those areas of the city that need it most. Sections of North, South, Southwest, West, Northeast, and Northwest Philadelphia would all benefit. Bridesburg, Frankford, Wissinoming, Tacony, Germantown, West Oak Lane, Feltonville, are just a few that would benefit from this tax abatement. The 10-year abatement according to studies has produced $2 of taxes to the city for every $1 abated! The expansion of the 10-year abatement to 20 years for all properties under 250k will also help the sale of 40,000 parcels going into the land bank. It will make these properties more saleable and more valuable in the way of dollars to the city."
"These neighborhoods suffer from quality of life issues and employment. Having more people employed will cause the quality of life issues to improve. If our residents have jobs this will turn the tide. On the issue of jobs we should look to create centers of employment like the Navy Yard and duplicate its success. In the Northeast, whether it's Frankford or Bridesburg, we should develop another Keystone Opportunity Zone like the Navy Yard and market it to all the companies that have moved to New Jersey. Our city in the 1970s had over 300,000 manufacturing jobs. Today we have 25,000 or so. Having many companies relocating to a section in the Northeast will create employment in these areas. The same thinking needs to be accomplished in our other neighborhoods. Basically, using our tax structure to entice companies outside of our region to come here and locate in areas where we need development."
“We need to provide incentives for our existing companies to expand and stay in our city. We need to help them get to the next level. Their progress and success is ours, too! Just look at Comcast. It’s great they are here!”
“We need to evaluate our tax system and not have a system that benefits companies that locate their corporate offices outside the city. We need to have a system that benefits them to locate in the city. We have taxes that act as a disincentive to put your headquarters in Philadelphia. It should be the reverse. We need the jobs here!”
“We should consider the sale of PGW providing the city continues to have an ownership interest (maybe 50 percent with 50 percent control). PGW can be run by private enterprise providing the city is a stakeholder and the increased revenues and profits are not on the backs of our residents (controls would have to be put in place here on rate increases for all but especially for the lower income population) or the loss of jobs of residents of the city. The focus must be on finding efficiencies in the system and exploring other income revenue opportunities like exporting the Marcellus Shale resources out of the Philadelphia Ports.”