The Emerson tenancy had become a good commercial bet thanks to Liebergott, with an quiet assist from an old grad and trustee, Peter Meade.

Meade, who combined a career as a radio broadcaster with stints in politics working for former Boston Mayor Kevin White and the late Senator Ted Kennedy, is credited by many within City Hall as helping steer Emerson’s development in such a way so as not to extinguish the enthusiasm of Mayor Thomas Menino, who was foursquare in favor of the expansion.

The vacuum created by a deteriorating Combat Zone provided Emerson with the breathing room in which to expand. It was a case of circumstantial town-gown cooperation that was mutually exploited for a greater public good.

Kenny Gloss is the second generation to sell used and antiquarian books from the Brattle Book Store on neighboring West Street. I stopped by the Brattle after talking with Liebergott, to get a hard-nosed merchant’s take on what the Paramount and ArtsEmerson mean to downtown.

“A lot,” said Gloss, with no prompting. “Emerson and Suffolk have brought increased security and better street lighting to the neighborhood. But the real contribution is the increase in foot traffic from students, staff, and, I assume, in the future from theatergoers. This area is alive again. When the bad economy put Downtown Crossing on hold, Emerson provided a insurance policy that many people just did not realize was there. There is real energy. What used to be the sex district is now the arts-and-culture district.”

Peter Kadzis can be reached at

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