Philadelphia’s New Boom

The city is changing dramatically, with new buildings, revitalized neighborhoods and inviting public spaces emerging all at once. Here’s an inside look at what’s behind this New Boom — and a preview of what our revitalized city will be.

Trend #2: West Philly Rising

No other part of the city — or region — is changing as rapidly as West Philly. in the past two years, the big institutions (Penn, Drexel, CHOP, HUP) and private builders (who are pouring more than $1 billion into near-term development) have been moving at breakneck pace to create more of … just … everything. Here, 21 of the big-money, high-impact, skyline-altering projects we’ll see popping up in the next few years
Illustration by Pietari Posti

Illustration by Pietari Posti

1. 3.0 University Place will be a five- or six-story privately developed office building with retail space. Target completion date is summer 2016.

2. Hub 3939 is the second phase of a privately built, Penn-owned seven-floor building with apartments, retail and offices.

3. 3601 Market Street: Southern Land Company is building a 28-story residential complex for the University City Science Center’s community — a first for the growing nonprofit, and part of a master plan to bolster campus life. The building will have ground-floor retail, 363 apartments, a fitness studio and a pool. The project is set to finish this summer and is estimated to cost $110 million.

4. The Pavilion for Advanced Care, a just-completed 178,000-square-foot critical-care center for Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, comes with a helipad and cost $144 million.

5. 3737 Chestnut Street is a partnership between Radnor Property Group and the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral. The 25-story residential apartment tower (scheduled for completion this year) will have 6,000 square feet of retail.

6. The University City High School site is 14 acres that Drexel and Wexford Science & Technology plan to develop into offices and research and lab space, with residential units and possibly an elementary school. Dates and specific plans have yet to be announced.

7. The Summit at University City, a privately built 550,000-square-foot residential tower on Drexel’s campus, is full of amenities and will have retail on the ground floor; completion is anticipated for the fall of 2015.

8. The Raymond G. Perelman Center for Jewish Life is Drexel’s first Jewish student center, with 14,000 square feet of event space, study areas, offices and a kosher kitchen; expected opening is 2016.

9. The Study Hotel at University City: In conjunction with Drexel University, private developer Hospitality 3 is constructing a 212-room hotel with banquet space and a ground-floor restaurant and bar. Projected construction cost: $50 million.

10. New College House at Hill Field will have 190,000 square feet of housing and dining for Penn students next to a big campus lawn; projected to be complete by the fall of 2016 and cost $127 million.

11. Innovation Neighborhood is a Drexel and Brandywine Realty Trust project that will create a 12-acre campus to foster tech, business and other creative ventures. The larger master plan could include transportation improvements for Amtrak and 30th Street Station.

12. Cira Centre South: Brandywine Realty Trust is developing two separate towers, plus a greenway between them, known as CCS. The first phase of the project, Evo, is a recently completed 33-story tower of high-end apartments, study areas and a rooftop pool. Next up is the FMC Tower (projected completion: 2016), with 49 stories of rental units and ground-floor retail. Total estimated cost for both projects is around $475 million.

13. Schuylkill Avenue Project, a CHOP-owned area on the eastern side of the river, will have a 21-story high-rise primarily dedicated to non-patient offices, to be completed in the spring of 2017.

14. Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics: This 30,000-square-foot research facility is being constructed atop the just-opened 115,000-square- foot Henry A. Jordan Medical Education Center (which cost $38 million), adjacent to Penn Med’s already impressive Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. Researchers will expand on the cancer-cell therapy breakthroughs of Carl June.

15. Unnamed Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania patient pavilion, being designed by architect Norman Foster’s London firm, is reported to cost more than a billion dollars; timeline not available yet.

16. The Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care: Slated to open this summer and costing about $450 million, this building is CHOP’s most significant project since it began a $2 billion expansion in 2011. The 700,000-square-foot center will have pediatric outpatient services, clinical-care facilities, and a 14,000-square-foot green roof and garden.

17. The Neural and Behavioral Sciences Building will bring Penn’s psych and biology departments (and a few other programs) under one 77,000-plus-square-foot roof.

18. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics will house those areas of study at Penn in a 100,000-square-foot building, with offices and an auditorium; targeted completion is 2018.

19. Perry World House will be a 17,000-square-foot gathering place for international events and discussions on Penn’s campus, to be completed in 2016.

20. The Woodlands is a 54-acre riverside park and National Historical Landmark District that, with some funding from the William Penn Foundation, will begin to restore and preserve its treasures this year.

21. Pennovation Works: Penn is extending its reach to the eastern banks with this 23-acre project, which aims to lure private-sector businesses focused on innovation and will house a few university labs and offices. Existing buildings currently under renovation include the 52,000-square-foot Pennovation Center (a first-phase project), which will house labs and co-working space.

Behind the Boom: West Philly

The Place-Makers: Matt Bergheiser and Prema Gupta

Bergheiser, the executive director of the University City District, and Gupta, his economic development guru, have tapped into the importance of “place-making” with gusto. Their Porch at 30th Street project turned a drab block of concrete into a fully programmed public park that pulls in a great lunch crowd, and their Project Rehab is turning ugly, broken-down properties into attractive, useable assets for the community. But mostly, they’re filling in the holes between all the massive, shiny private and institution-backed development so that University City continues to feel like a beautiful, accessible, appealing neighborhood.

The Powerhouse: Gerard Sweeney

One might say that most of West Philly’s inroads lead back to Sweeney, head of Brandywine Realty Trust. To wit: his swanky two-tower Cira Centre South project; the planned mega-reinvention of 30th Street Station; and his vital role as chairman of the board of the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, the group responsible for that jaunty new boardwalk.

The Behemoths: John Fry, Ralph Muller, Amy Gutmann and Steven Altschuler

Under the leadership of Fry (Drexel), Muller (Penn Med), Gutmann (Penn) and Altschuler (CHOP), the West Philly of 2015 bears little resemblance to West Philly just five years ago. (See the map on page 68 for the meds-and-eds’ brave new world.) Development of this scale takes a helluva team at each shop to dream big and execute fast. But what really stands out is the amount of inter-institutional collaboration across the board, which has spawned such exciting current and future projects as the Drexel and Amtrak Innovation Neighborhood plan and the Penn Med and University City Science Center tower at 3737 Market Street. A shared vision of greatness — built around huge amounts of institutional and private funding — is creating a city within a city that will have more and better retail and restaurants, a new hotel, the kinds of school improvements that keep students excited, more accessible health care, plus elevated design and architecture. Could such a robust symbiosis between Philadelphia giants exist anywhere outside of West Philly? We dare to dream. …

>> Click for Trend #3: The Luxification of Center City