University City continues to be a focus of development activity and has 22 million square feet of proposed projects planned for the Philadelphia neighborhood that is already undergoing a building boom.
In its annual analysis of the how the neighborhood is faring, University City District's latest report paints a portrait of an area of Philadelphia that is not only thriving on an array of fronts but facing five significant “economy-altering bets” that will forever change it and have repercussions for the region.
The five bets: The University of Pennsylvania’s Pennovation Center; Brandywine Realty Trust and Drexel University’s Schuylkill Yards; the University City Science Center and Wexford Science & Technology’s uCity Square development; the roll out of a master plan by Amtrak to re-imagine and develop areas it owns around 30th Street Station; and the continued investment by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of the Sciences and the University of Pennsylvania Health System and other large stakeholders.
Each of those projects will add millions of square feet of new office, lab, residential, educational and other spaces once built out over the ensuing years and solidify University City as a hub of research and innovation. That in itself will be a economic driver for the region.
“It seems that every institution and major developer is thinking on a transformative scale,” said Matt Bergheiser, president of University City District. “The individual projects are all amazing and transformative on their own but they are all happening at the same time.”
Among other highlights from the annual report:
- More than 2.6 million square feet of new development totaling more than $1.3 billion was completed in the past year;
- A total of 77,000 jobs were concentrated in the neighborhood, increasing from a record-setting 75,000 jobs tallied last year;
- The inventory of hotel rooms increased by 44 percent with the addition of 315 new rooms;
- Office vacancy was less than 5 percent;
- The median value of a house rose by 6 percent to a new record of $334,500; and
- Restaurants and retailers continued to set up shop in the neighborhood. The number of dining establishments rose by 24 percent since 2009 to 268 and a total of 152 retailers occupy space in the neighborhood.
As a result of the increase in restaurant and retail activity as well as more mixed-use development, University City is starting to become more of a 24-hour neighborhood, Bergheiser said.
While the neighborhood is thriving, one of the challenges it has started to increasingly face is congestion, which has become an issue, said Seth Budick, who oversees policy and research at the organization.
“You can’t create thousands of jobs without it having an impact on transportation,” Budick said.