It’s undisputed that with the expansion of uCity Square, University City and frankly all of Philadelphia will enter a new era of innovation, access, inclusion, and discovery—four words Science Center president and CEO Steve Tang stressed at the ceremonial groundbreaking of 3675 Market Street on Tuesday.
“Imagine the discoveries that will be made here, the young minds inspired to pursue science, and the communities that will be introduced to the power and promise of technology,” Tang told the crowd that gathered at 3601 Market Street next door to the construction site.
The vision for uCity Square’s latest development to be completed in 2018 is essentially an innovator’s funhouse, a place where Philadelphians can work, play, and connect. The 14-story 345,000 square feet mix-used property will house laboratory, clinical, office, educational, and retail space. The highlights: The Science Center will relocate its headquarters to the new building, leasing 50,000 square feet. The ever-popular Quorum space will be tripled, expanding to 15,000 square feet on the ground and second floors of the building. (That’s definitely a sign of the demand for the clubhouse-like space.) They’ll build a larger FirstHand lab for middle school and high school students in the STEM and STEAM fields. And possibly the most anticipated element is that the Boston-based CIC (Cambridge Innovation Center), a concentrated “innovation ecosystem,” will be an anchor tenant occupying 127,000 square feet of the space.
“Not too often you hear about Philadelphia attracting a Boston-based company,” Tang said. And despite the quiet competition between the two cities, they have a lot in common. They both boast a thriving eds-and-meds scene, for example, said Tang.
In Boston, CIC transformed the now popular Kendall Square into a “hotbed of tech startup activity” according to the Boston Globe. The area, once a sleepy part of Cambridge, is now bustling with venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and engineers. CIC was the magnet that attracted hundreds of tech startups and giants like Facebook and Amazon, which continue to grow their presence there. At the groundbreaking, CIC president and managing director Brian Dacey said their ambitious goal is to bring in 300 clients and companies to the Philadelphia location to add to their portfolio of 1,500 clients across five locations worldwide from Miami to Rotterdam. They also plan to create a platform for clients to raise capital. CIC clients have raised more than $2.7 billion dollars over the years, Dacey said. “If we can bring some of those same results here, we’ll be very happy.”
So why’s this all happening now? Well the Science Center says it’s just following through on its mission to move Greater Philadelphia forward and its 53-year history of leveraging the region’s competitive advantage. Things have moved quickly in uCity Square: Science Center HQ 3711 Market Street opened less than 10 years ago in 2008, Penn Medicine’s 3737 Market Street opened in 2014, and mixed-use development 3601 Market Street opened in 2015. Innovation Plaza was also completed that year. Amidst all the growth, University City was recently named the hottest tech submarket in the nation.
And a big side of the story is community building. By the end of ceremony, “West is Best” became a rallying cry. Congressman Dwight Evans, Councilwoman Janie Blackwell, State Senator Vincent Hughes, and Commerce Director Harold Epps all acknowledged West Philadelphia’s role as a beacon for opportunity. “Opportunity is the best cure to any social problem,” Evans told the crowd.
Real estate company Wexford Science + Technology and Chicago-based real estate investment trust Ventas are also partners in uCity Square. 3675 Market is now 50 percent pre-leased.
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