Our Odds on the 30th Street Station Area Development Plan

30th Street Station development plan, aerial view

The 30th Street Station area master plan laid out a fantastic vision of a second downtown for Philadelphia in University City. Only money stands in the way of realizing it, with the public sector as the weakest link. | Rendering by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, courtesy Amtrak

$6.5 billion.

The figure was tossed out rather casually in the course of yesterday’s formal unveiling of the two-years-in-the-making master development plan for the area surrounding 30th Street Station in University City, but it represents the largest single bet yet placed on the future of Philadelphia.

The parties involved — Amtrak, Brandywine Realty Trust, Drexel University, PennDOT, SEPTA, and a slew of elected officials and community groups — have put their chips down on a project that has many moving parts and will play out over the course of decades.

As we’ve seen plans almost as ambitious as this one go up in smoke (anyone here remember River City?), it’s only logical that we should ask what its chances for completion are. Herewith are my own odds for the plan’s key components and the overall chances that the plan will be fully realized sometime in our or our children’s lifetimes. Read more »

Korman Center Renewal Gets Under Way at Drexel

A Korman (and Drexel) family portrait. | Photo: Sandy Smith

A Korman (and Drexel) family portrait post-groundbreaking. | Photo: Sandy Smith

When Drexel University moved its library across 33rd Street from the heart of campus in 1977, the family of Maximilian Korman (Class of 1929) and Samuel Korman (Class of 1934) made a d0nation intended to turn the building into a campus social and study center.

Over the years, the couches were replaced by computers as the university became an early adopter of networked microcomputer technology. Today, in a ceremonial groundbreaking, the Korman family joined Drexel University President John Fry in launching a reconstruction project that will return the 58-year-old Korman Center to the role the family envisioned for it, namely, the beating heart of the campus’ academic quadrant.

“This project has been wanting to happen for so long,” Fry told the audience at the ceremony before once again thanking the Kormans for giving it the push it needed. Read more »

Hard Hat Tour: The View From Vue32

Architect's rendering of Vue32 in the context of its surroundings | Rendering by Erdy McHenry Architecture courtesy Cashman & Associates

Architect’s rendering of Vue32 in the context of its surroundings | Rendering by Erdy McHenry Architecture courtesy Cashman & Associates

Ground was ceremonially broken one week ago for Vue32, the new apartment tower Radnor Property Group (RPG) is building and will manage for Drexel University at 32nd and Race streets. But a recent hard-hat tour of the site reveals that work on the foundation and substructure is well under way.

RPG President David Yeager led us on a hard-hat tour of the construction site and explained why the slender 16-story tower looks the way it does and how all the pieces of the project, which also includes a row of townhouses, fell into place.

Yeager worked with Drexel President John Fry on a series of redevelopment projects on and around the Franklin & Marshall College campus in Lancaster, and now that he’s back in Philly, Fry has turned to Yeager and his company again to help him carry out Drexel’s master campus plan. The Vue32 project advances two key elements of it: reducing the pressure on off-campus housing in Powelton Village by providing more apartments for members of the Drexel community and promoting homeownership by Drexel faculty and staff in the neighborhood as well. Read more »

Philly House Values Shoot Past Pre-Recession Levels

The latest data from Drexel's Lindy Institute show house prices in Philadelphia have fully rebounded from their post-recession lows. | Photo credit: iStock/Pgiam

The latest data from Drexel’s Lindy Institute show house prices in Philadelphia have fully rebounded from their post-recession lows. | Photo credit: iStock/Pgiam

Something very unusual happened in the winter of 2016 in Philadelphia: Not only did house prices continue their upward climb from their post-housing-bubble low, but they set a new all-time high, and house sales rose from the prior quarter along with them.

The first-quarter 2016 Philadelphia housing market report from Drexel University’s Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation and Myers Research show that the citywide house price index hit an all-time high of 473.5 in the first quarter of 2016. (The index’s base value is the average house value in the first quarter of 1980.) That represents a 3.9 percent increase over the index value in the previous quarter and a one percent increase over the index’s pre-recession peak of 466.9 in the second quarter of 2006. The median sale price citywide also rose to an all-time high of $143,000 in the quarter just ended. Read more »

Insomnia Cookies Adding Storefronts to Drexel and Temple’s Campuses

insomnia cookies 940Insomnia Cookies has been feeding college students cookies and even cold milk since 2003. Starting out as a food truck, they now have locations in almost two-dozen states and two storefronts in Center City Philadelphia. Now they’re adding brick-and-mortar locations where a couple of the original food trucks were located. This spring, Drexel and Temple Universities will be getting their own storefronts that will be able to offer Insomina’s full menu including ice cream, brownies, Cookie Cakes and Bigwiches.

Read more »

Next Steps for 30th Street Area Revealed

A rendering of what the 30th Street Station area should look like by 2050 from the draft district plan

A rendering of what the 30th Street Station area should look like by 2050 from the draft district plan

On the heels of Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust announcing their joint plan to redevelop the area just west of 30th Street Station comes a draft plan for the larger area surrounding the station.

The 30th Street Station District Plan is the product of a coalition that includes not only Drexel and Brandywine but also Amtrak, PennDOT and SEPTA. Like Schuylkill Yards, the larger plan envisions a totally new urban core district emerging around Amtrak’s third-busiest intercity railroad station over the next 35 years. Read more »

Here’s Where to See 100 Years of Philadelphia Fashion on Display

Philadelphia Fashion

A Balmain evening gown and Hattie Carnegie hat from the ’60s. | Photos by Michael J. Shepherd.

Looking for something cool to do in the coming weeks? After a successful exhibit Immortal Beauty held at the URBN Center this winter, Drexel’s world-class Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection is back at it—this time digging into the extensive archives to show us Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion. The exhibition, opening Sunday, March 13, covers a dynamic 100 years of Philadelphia fashion, from small-scale seamstress creations to the rise and fall of glistening department stores.  Read more »

Free Outdoor Yoga/Music/Arts Festival Coming to Drexel Park in May

Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia™

The view of the Philadelphia skyline from Drexel Park | Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia™

My college senior project consisted of me writing a paper about my career goals. Lindsay McDowell, a student at Drexel University, is going a bit bigger with hers: McDowell, a senior in Drexel’s Entertainment and Arts Management program, is putting on a giant outdoor yoga festival, complete with live music, art installations, food vendors, art vendors, and more, at Drexel Park on Sunday, May 1st. That is her senior project.

Who else feels like an underachiever? Read more »

Drexel Study: Why Philly Should Use Rainwater to Flush Toilets


Purified water is wasted in toilet bowls, but flushing is the single largest source of water consumption in the U.S.

Some researchers at Drexel University have a better idea, one that would work particularly well in Philadelphia: use rainwater instead.

Franco Montalto and other Drexel researchers took a look at rainfall levels in big U.S. cities, and found that Philly is one of just four cities nationwide that gets enough rain to eliminate the need for tap water in the toilet. How? By using large storage bins to collect rainfall from rooftops then diverting that water to the bathroom whenever the need arises. Read more »

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