Putting economic development into practice at the Reading Terminal Market

Photo of Anuj Gupta

Anuj Gupta (MGA/JD ’03) navigates complex public systems to manage Philadelphia’s iconic market

“I think Philadelphia is the greatest city in America,” says Anuj Gupta (Master of Government Administration/Juris Doctor ’03). “To me, public service is what I can do in furtherance of that.” Since he graduated with a dual degree from Fels and Penn Law, that service has most often taken the form of community and economic development. Building on the administrative expertise and network he developed as a Fels student and alumnus, Anuj has provided legal representation to developers of affordable housing, worked for the division of city government that oversees licenses and inspections, and directed community revitalization projects in Mount Airy. “If you’re really serious about making an impact on people’s lives, you should focus your efforts on the local level,” Anuj advises. “Whether you work for the city or a university or a large nonprofit, your ability to get things done and be creative is much, much greater than in a large federal bureaucracy.”

Anuj has had ample opportunity to practice creative and effective management since he stepped into leadership as General Manager of the Reading Terminal Market, a nonprofit and quasi-public entity that resides in a commonwealth-owned building. “The market’s governance and structure involves a variety of diverse stakeholders on a day-to-day basis,” says Anuj. “Many of my classes at Fels focused on the practical skills needed to navigate complex public systems just like this.” As General Manager, Anuj oversees all market operations from the routine matters of leasing, maintenance, security, and events to the higher-level objectives of carefully curating the market’s vendors and fulfilling the different various branches of its mission. Providing access to fresh and prepared foods to Philadelphians at all income levels; embracing and reflecting the diversity of the city; strengthening the link between rural and urban communities—the common thread, says Anuj, is maintaining an accessible, integrated civic space. “There is no corporate titan or major tax break that was used to create this place,” he explains. “The market was built on a backbone of small businesses, and it has created an economic powerhouse. My charge is to keep this market vibrant and competitive so that it’s around for another 125 years.”

To that end, the Reading Terminal Market has rolled out an impressive array of attractions—online ordering, classes and festivals, local partnerships—designed to compete with fresh food flagships while maintaining the authentic market characteristics that attract visitors from around the world. “I love this market. I've been a regular customer here for years,” says Anuj, a lifelong locavore who owns a restaurant in Mt. Airy. “How could I turn down the chance to make an impact on such an iconic Philadelphia institution, a place that so many people care about?”

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