The last year has been kind to University City despite the difficult economy and tough climate for development projects.
The neighborhood, where many of Philadelphia’s higher education and medical facilities are clustered, saw this week the opening of Penn Park, a series of athletic fields and open space on 24 acres south of Walnut Street on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus. And, next week, the Wistar Institute breaks ground on a seven-story, $100 million, 89,700-square-foot research building on Spruce Street.
Those are just two of the $2 billion in real estate projects that are either under way or wrapped up in this community that covers just 2.4 square miles.
Other projects include:
- Campus Apartments constructing a $50 million Homewood Suites by Hilton. A second phase of this project will include a 150,000-square-foot office building.
- Brandywine Realty Trust completing the renovation of the former U.S. Post Office building and relocation of 4,300 Internal Revenue Service employees into the space.
- Drexel University proposing a $90 million student housing community and mixed-use project totaling 18 stories and 212,715 square feet on Chestnut Street between 32nd and 33rd.
- University of Pennsylvania building an $80 million, 80,000-square-foot nanotechnology center.
In addition, several new public spaces have been created that add to the vibrancy of University City as well as, for the first time, begin to truly tie the educational hub to the city’s financial center in the Central Business District.
“The [Schuylkill] river has been a moat for a very long time,” said Matt Bergheiser, executive director of University City District.
The investment in commercial projects and public spaces has helped to finally knit the two distinct communities, he said.
Aside from these projects, University City has thrived in other ways, according to Bergheiser and UCD’s annual report, The State of University City. Seventy-two new retailers and businesses have opened up in the neighborhood during the last 18 months, employers have added 12.2 percent of new jobs during the last five years and its population continues to grow. All the while, the research institutions continue to attract a significant amount of National Institute of Health and other research funding, which helps it attract top scientists and other academics as well as grow the city’s innovation economy.