William P. Hankowsky, during three decades in the public and private sectors, has played central roles in building projects that have dramatically changed the Philadelphia landscape.

In the 1980s, as chief operating officer at the quasi-public Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC), Hankowsky was instrumental in drafting state legislation that paved the way for the Convention Center, which opened in 1993.

In the late 1990s, as PIDC president, he helped lead negotiations on the construction of new stadiums for the Eagles and the Phillies for nearly $1 billion.

When Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003 and Citizens Bank Park in 2004, Hankowsky had become chief executive at Liberty Property Trust, where he helped spearhead construction of the Comcast Center, the city's tallest building.

All the while, Hankowsky, a 61-year-old Pittsburgh native, developed a reputation as a thoughtful, low-key player skillful in politics, real estate, and economic development.

"He's very public-spirited, and he's a brilliant strategic thinker. People have a high degree of respect for him because of his integrity and intellect," said Charles P. Pizzi, who was Philadelphia's commerce director in the 1980s.

Hankowsky followed Pizzi as commerce director in 1988 before returning to the PIDC as president in 1989. The two are close friends.

Hankowsky and his wife, Rosemary, live in West Mount Airy and have three sons, twins in college and the other in high school.

After graduating from Brown University with a degree in economics, Hankowsky pursued a master's degree in public administration at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

In graduate school, he had an internship with the City of Camden, setting up a department of community development. He left Wharton when he was offered the job as its first director in 1975.

Hankowsky spent most of the next 25 years in public service, until 2001, when he became the chief investment officer at Liberty, a Malvern-based real estate investment trust.

During his tenure, Liberty teamed up with PIDC to spearhead the public-private redevelopment of the Navy Yard.

On Monday, Hankowsky explained his investment in the The Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News as a business deal infused with "a tremendous amount of civic motivation."

"I love Philadelphia and I love this region . . . ," he said. "I have been blessed to have had all these opportunities. And it struck me that this was a situation where maybe I could give a little bit back."

Hankowsky is serving a two-year term as chairman of the board of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the region's largest business advocacy organization, with about 5,000 companies as members.

On Monday, Hankowsky spoke of the role of news in a region's economic health:

"A news organization like this is crucial to the business comuminity. ... We need an organization that can promote public policy, that urges economic growth in this region.

"These papers have been doing that for decades. And that's critical for this to be a world-class region."

A Democrat registered in Philadelphia, Hankowsky has donated about $30,000 to campaigns in the last decade.

He serves on boards including those of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Delaware River Waterfront Corp., and Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.