Gregory Heller is a practitioner and author with over a decade of experience in social-impact real estate, community/economic development, and urban planning and policy. Greg is CEO of American Communities Trust (ACT) where he is leading the Baltimore-based nonprofit to become a national community development partner, with the goal of “building social impact” in cities across the U.S. In June 2015 he was a speaker at TEDx Philadelphia, where he talked about the potential of “social impact real estate” to transform America’s urban communities.
Prior to his work with ACT, from January 2013 through November 2013, Greg worked as an independent consultant and Senior Advisor with Econsult Solutions Inc., a Philadelphia-based economics firm. There he worked on economic development projects with a focus on food system initiatives, including Detroit’s food system study, feasibility for a kitchen incubator in Cincinnati, analysis of anchor institution procurement in Philadelphia, and a study of 135 kitchen incubators across the U.S. He also consulted for ACT during this period on the Baltimore Food Hub project.
From September 2009 to December 2012 Greg worked at the Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation, in West Philadelphia, serving first in a project management role, and then as the organization’s Director. Here Greg was project manager for the Center for Culinary Enterprises, a $6.5 MM, 13,000 square-foot kitchen incubator, with four shared-use kitchens, three retail spaces, and a TV-studio/classroom kitchen, which opened in 2012. In addition, Greg oversaw the development of the Walnut Hill Community Farm, an off-the-grid, urban agriculture project with a youth growers’ cooperative.
From 2006-2009 Greg was a design analyst at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, working on planning, policy, and grant administration projects. Here Greg was the primary author of “Promoting Civic Design Excellence for Philadelphia,” an agenda for improving the quality of the city’s urban design and development, funded by the William Penn Foundation. Following the publication of this report, Greg was invited to serve on Mayor Michael Nutter’s transition teams, where he helped implement the report’s policy recommendations. From 2004-2006 Greg was Director of Planning at the Parkside Historic Preservation Corporation, an affordable housing developer in West Philadelphia focusing on historic, adaptive reuse projects.
Greg is the author of “Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics and the Building of Modern Philadelphia” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), and Greg’s writings on urban design and development have appeared in a variety of local and national publications. Greg serves on several civic organizations, including his current term as Chairman of Families Forward Philadelphia, a homeless services organization. Greg is a founding board member of USA250, and founder of the Better Philadelphia Challenge, an annual, international urban design competition administered today by the Philadelphia Center for Architecture. Greg previously served on the boards of Design Advocacy Group of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Committee on City Policy.
In 2012 Greg was awarded Community College of Philadelphia’s Distinguished Leadership Award, and in 2008 he was named by Leadership Philadelphia one of the city’s “101 Emerging Connectors.” Greg has a B.A. from Wesleyan University. He lives with his wife in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia.