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Science Center Expansion to Include a Public Plaza, Apartment Towers

The University City Science Center's monolithic office buildings will be joined to a new zone featuring pedestrian-friendly shopping streets, apartment towers, and a sprawling public plaza as part of the West Philadelphia business incubation and research complex's plan to more than double in size.

Wexford Science and Technology, which is developing the new site, said Thursday that its goal in the $1 billion project is to break up the long, unbroken blocks of offices and institutional structures where the expansion will occur while mixing in other uses.

Wexford and the Science Center are trying out the new approach to attract high-prestige technology and biomedical companies to the campus as tenants, where they would complement the surrounding universities and research institutions.

Such big companies are demanding lively settings that combine housing, jobs, shopping and entertainment because that's where the most sought-after workers increasingly want to live, said Joseph Reagan, a vice president at Wexford, which specializes in office and lab projects near urban campuses.

"The opportunity is to create more of a mixed-use environment," Reagan said. "We're really trying to break down the scale."

Much of the expansion will occur within a 10-acre parcel, part of the former University City High School site to the north of the existing Science Center campus.

Other work will take place on the last three open parcels of the Science Center campus, near the intersection of Market Street with 34th and 38th Streets.

The campus, established in 1963, extends about five blocks along Market Street between 34th and 39th.

The expansion will increase the Science Center's office and lab space from 2.5 million square feet to as much as 4 million square feet, spokeswoman Jeanne Mell said.

As part of the first phase of redevelopment, to begin in the fall, Wexford plans to break up the high school site with a new traffic grid, including a resurrected stretch of 37th Street that will reach Market Street, Reagan said. It now ends about two blocks to the north.

The 37th Street extension will require the demolition and rebuilding of a campus structure on Market in the new street's path.

The rebuilt office tower at 3675 Market St. will be designed by ZGF Architects, which previously completed two other Science Center buildings with Wexford, Reagan said.

Wexford hopes also to begin work before the end of the year on a low-rise tower with 300 residential units near the north side of the former high school site, where it abuts the adjacent neighborhood.

Five more high-rises will be built in the coming years, with at least one of them dedicated to more housing. Others will be used for the labs and offices designed for medical and technology firms.

Companies such as Eli Lilly and NRG Energy already have subsidiaries at the Science Center.

Chemicals giant FMC Corp. plans to move into a 49-story headquarters building being built nearby, but off the center's campus.

At the heart of the expanded portion of the campus, Wexford plans a public plaza to be surrounded by restaurants and shops, including a supermarket that will also serve the surrounding community.

"It could become ideally the iconic heart of the expanded Science Center and University City as a whole," Reagan said.

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing