Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Drexel University Plans $3.5 Billion “Innovation Neighborhood”

Fourteen acres next to Philadelphia’s 30th Street train station will be transformed into a $3.5 billion “innovation neighborhood” designed to mix education, housing and entrepreneurship, under plans unveiled by Drexel University. 

Schuylkill Yards is the name of the mixed-use project, which will add up to eight million square feet of offices, labs, and housing in new and recycled buildings next to the third busiest passenger rail station in the country.

Drexel University, which assembled the land and envisioned the project, announced that it has selected Brandywine Realty Trust of Philadelphia to be the master developer and its joint venture partner in the project.

SHoP Architects and the Dutch firm West8 are working on the master plan. SHoP will handle the district planning and development of the architectural standards, and West 8 will be responsible for creating the public realm and development of the landscape standards.

Project renderings show a combination of high-rise and low-rise buildings on a 10-acre site next to Drexel’s main campus, Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, and Brandywine’s Cira Centre development.

“Schuylkill Yards will undeniably transform Philadelphia’s skyline as new towers rise on the west side of the Schuylkill River,” said Gerard H. Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust.

Proposed uses in this “collaborative neighborhood” include entrepreneurial spaces, educational facilities and research laboratories, corporate offices, residential and retail spaces, hospitality and cultural venues, and public open spaces.

While the community is being designed for a wide range of users, from educational and medical institutions to residents and businesses, developers say the common theme will be the pursuit of innovation.
 
“Drexel has always believed there’s a superior use for this unique location — essentially the 50 yard line of the Eastern Seaboard — as a neighborhood built around collaboration and innovation. That’s why the University assembled these parcels, and the time is right to put this vision into action,” said Drexel President John A. Fry.

“Schuylkill Yards is more than a large-scale development; it will be the heart of America’s next great urban innovation district.”

The developers say this is a long-term investment in Philadelphia and its University City neighborhood, and it’s aimed at people who want to live or work in the area and have easy access to the train station.

Besides its proximity to 30th Street Station, Schuylkill Yards will have connections to Philadelphia’s international airport. The master plan calls for a new gateway to Drexel and University City, a real estate submarket with a high concentration of education and medical institutions.

Construction of Schuylkill Yards will take place in multiple phases. As master developer, Brandywine, will oversee a team that includes Gotham Organization leading the residential development, and Longfellow Real Estate Partners leading the life sciences component.

When completed, developers say, the site will contain a mix of repurposed existing buildings and new towers connected by a “diverse network of public spaces.”

Before
After
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The development will begin with the creation of Drexel Square, a 1.3 acre park at 30th and Market streets, directly across from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. In addition, they say, the historic former Bulletin Building will be re-imagined by transforming its east facade with “inside/out viewports and a dynamic front screen.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the project represents “one of the most valuable assemblages of real estate” in the nation.

“Schuylkill Yards is a big step forward in University City’s transition to a next-generation business district,” he said. “It will provide our region’s current and future innovators with a central hub for collaboration and signal to the world that Philadelphia is ready for business in the 21st century’s new economy.”

Schuylkill Yards “will bring new, innovative businesses and residents to Pennsylvania, and the potential economic impact is tremendous,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, “Those who choose to make Schuylkill Yards their home will have access to many of the most innovative companies, organizations and educational institutions in our state.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Three Construction Projects Will Transform Temple University

Temple University is investing $300 million in new and upgraded facilities as part of a campus renaissance. Temple’s residential campus continues to evolve, with major construction projects bringing a new state-of-the-art library, a 35,000-seat football stadium, a health and wellness center and on-campus retail space. 

A new state-of-the art library 

The former site of Barton Hall will soon be home to Temple University’s new library, designed by Snøhetta, an architectural firm known for its innovative library designs, in partnership with Philadelphia-based design firm Stantec.

Demolition of the old Barton Hall was completed in March.

Plans include a library with more than 225,000-square-foot occupying a space approximately the size of a city block.

It will be bounded by Polett Walk to the south, Liacouras Walk to the west, Norris Street to the north and the Quad to the east.

A state-of-the art automated storage and retrieval system will allow the library to devote more square footage to learning spaces and less space to book stacks.
The new building will have dramatic arched entrances and a green roof, as well as a large, upper-level outdoor balcony space that will offer views of campus.

New Football Stadium

Temple University plans to construct a new 35,000-seat football stadium, with an estimated cost of $126 million, on the northwest corner of its main campus.

The multi-purpose stadium and retail complex will be bounded by Broad Street, Norris Street, 16th Street and Montgomery Avenue.

Temple has hired AECOM and architects Moody Nolan to design the project.

AECOM designed Florida Atlantic University's football stadium in 2012. At 29,419 seats, it's slightly smaller than Temple's stadium.

There are many reasons why the university is considering an on-campus stadium, including the long-term benefit of owning a stadium instead of renting one.

Owning a stadium is anticipated to result in net savings of approximately $3 million annually. That’s money that can be used for other priorities. The Philadelphia Eagles have been criticized for charging Temple $1 million a year to lease their stadium.

“Having our own stadium will help showcase our vibrant campus as we celebrate Temple’s accomplishments on and off the field," says Temple President Neil D. Theobald.

Temple Stadium will have a capacity of about 35,000—about half the size of Lincoln Financial Field, where the university now plays its home games.

The project promises to help revitalize North Broad Street and contribute to the North Philadelphia economy.

Construction will also include an adjacent practice facility and a student recreation building. Temple plans to begin construction of the facility later this year.


Student Health and Wellness Center

Temple University will break ground this month on a new Student Health and Wellness Center—an academic, athletics and recreation facility that will provide space for students in the College of Public Health to hone their clinical skills along with space for recreational sports and weight training.

The centerpiece of the 95,000 square foot facility is the main entrance, angled toward the intersection of 15th Street and Montgomery Avenue.

A two-and-a-half-story glass atrium will greet pedestrians, who will enter the facility beneath a portion of an outdoor track that serves as a balcony above the main doors before returning to ground level around the perimeter of the building.

The multipurpose facility's academic area will have smart classrooms, laboratory spaces with the latest technology and lecture halls, as well as a unique apartment space where demonstrations can take place.

The new center will also have an indoor recreation area that includes a 70-yard synthetic turf field, a climbing wall and a juice bar.

The field is for use by the school's athletic teams, as well as participants in Temple's 36 club sports and 10 intramural sports. The recreation area will also offer twice the amount of free-weight space currently available to students. Outside, a track will be available to the public.

The targeted completion date is early in 2018. The architecture firm Moody Nolan designed the facility.
 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Massive $6.5B Redevelopment Planned for University City

University City is in for some major changes thanks to a new redevelopment plan from Amtrak and partners SEPTA, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Drexel University. The plan will be the single largest development project in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and turn West Philadelphia into a regional economic hub. 

The development is expected to cost $6.5 billion, with $2 billion going to infrastructure investments and the other $4.5 billion coming from developers.

The project is expected to create 22,000 construction jobs and another 10,000 permanent jobs, and add 8,000 to 10,000 residents to the city’s population.

The massive venture will focus on the area around 30th Street Station, the second-busiest station in the Amtrak system, ultimately turning the area into a second downtown for Philadelphia.

Plans for the station and surrounding neighborhood will start with the capping of the existing Amtrak and SEPTA-owned rail yards to accommodate 10 million square feet of development along the Schuylkill River.

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New office, retail and residential buildings containing 18 million square feet of total space and 40 acres of open space would be created, with most of the development privately financed.

The project will include housing for 10,000 residents and create 1.2 million square feet of commercial space.

Three pedestrian bridges across the Schuylkill River, linking University City with Logan Square and Center City, are also planned.

The redevelopment site consists of a total of 175 acres in the University City neighborhood, 88 of which is occupied by the Amtrak rail yard.

This project is the culmination of a two-year study of the site, which extends east of Drexel’s campus between Walnut and Spring Garden Streets and northeast from 30th Street Station.

Among the infrastructure improvements are plans to relocate a ramp for the Schuylkill Expressway in favor of a new bus terminal.

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In addition to the bus facility, Amtrak also plans to expand The Porch at 30th Street Station.

A new gateway park will surround the facility with a tree-lined promenade along the river, a west-side plaza that could be used for large-scale events and a north plaza along Arch Street.

The 30th Street Station itself will also receive a major renovation that will add retail space and a new pedestrian plaza around the train station.

A new underground concourse that will connect the SEPTA subway station at 30th Street to the Amtrak station, is also planned.


   

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Developer Proposes Massive Project in South Philly

A local developer has big plans for the northeast corner of Broad Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia. Bart Blatstein is seeking approval from the city’s Planning Commission to build a major mixed-use development on a vacant 4-acre block that could bring nearly 1,000 apartments and an 80-room hotel to the city.
 
Known as 1001 South Broad Street, the 4.4-acre mega-project will comprise 1.8 million square feet of retail and residential.

Plans call for the construction of a 34-story, 944-unit luxury apartment tower (with 80 hotel rooms on floors two through nine), 11 ground-floor retail stores, 882 parking spots and 357 bike parking spaces, at the corner of South Broad Street and Washington Avenue.

The 371-foot-high building will need zoning variances for roof decks for non-residential use and a parking garage.

The L-shaped development will also comprise a smaller residential building with approximately 60 units and additional commercial/retail and dining establishments on its fourth-level rooftop, dubbed the ‘Village.’

The Village is set to include outdoor gathering spaces and more intimate exterior pathways lined with small retail boutiques and both formal and casual dining establishments, reminiscent of a French village in Provence.

Overlooking the pedestrian streets, this surface will also feature two stories of quaint but luxurious walk-up apartments totaling approximately 100-120 units.

Additionally, the development will bring office space for modestly-sized businesses and co-working users, as well as three levels of a structured self-park garage with about 625 spaces for the use of residents, shoppers and visitors alike.

The site of the project, viewed as a gateway intersection between South Philadelphia and Center City, is bounded by South Broad Street to the west, Washington Avenue to the south, N. 13th Street on the east and Carpenter Street to the north.

Vehicle access to both the parking facility and the numerous internal off-street loading dock facilities is proposed to be through curb-cuts and entrance portals, two of which are along Carpenter Street and one along Washington Avenue. No curb cuts are proposed along S. Broad or S. 13th Streets.

Blatstein’s proposal, which could bring approximately 1.8 million square feet of residential and commercial space, will be reviewed by the Civic Design and Planning Commission on March 1.

Zoning variances will be needed for the project’s roof decks for non-residential use and parking garage. The site is already zoned CMX-5, the most permissive commercial zoning classification in the city. The CMX-5 zoning requires a special exception to include parking spaces above ground.

Washington Avenue is brimming with potential, and its future has become a hot-button topic in real estate circles. Developers have snapped up its many vacant lots and aging industrial buildings, and the city has been seeking to re-zone the former industrial thoroughfare in order to spur its development.

Trendy businesses have open alongside long-standing construction supply warehouses, seafood mongers and auto-repair shops.

The developer’s past projects in the city include the development of Piazza in Northern Liberties, which is modeled after Rome’s Piazza Navona, as well as shopping centers on Columbus Boulevard in South Philly.

A few years ago, Blatstein unsuccessfully attempted to convert the old Inquirer building on North Broad Street into a hotel and casino.

In a partnership with Cescaphe Event Group, the developer is also planning to convert the former PECO power station next to Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown into a wedding venue and event space.

Mr. Blatstein is currently building a mansion for himself on Rittenhouse Square.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

University Plans Massive $1.5 Billion Hospital Tower

The University of Pennsylvania is planning to knock down its Penn Tower to make way for a new $1.5 billion hospital building that will house 700 patient beds, 50 operating rooms and other health-care services.

The city planning commission has already approved plans for the 343-foot-tall structure that will take the place of the university's Penn Tower once its demolition is complete.

The 1.1 million-square-foot New Patient Pavilion will include 500 inpatient rooms, 50 operating rooms, and an emergency section, as well as a 650-space underground parking garage.

The commission voted to permit changes to the University of Pennsylvania master plan needed for construction of the building at 300 S. 33rd Street, which will serve as a patient-intake hub for surrounding medical facilities.

Plans include linking the new tower with Penn's existing hospital building complex and with the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.

Construction will be done in multiple phases. It’s expected that the University of Pennsylvania Health System will begin razing Penn Tower this year to make way for construction of the new hospital.

The existing Penn Tower was originally built in 1975 as the Hilton Hotel of Philadelphia. The structure was later acquired by Penn and has housed a variety of offices and clinics for the Penn Health System.

Those operations and employees have or will be relocated to other sites in University City and in Center City in preparation of its eventual demolition.

L.F. Driscoll and Balfour Beatty Construction have been retained to oversee the building of the new Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania facility. Driscoll is a Philadelphia construction management firm owned by Structure Tone.

Balfour Beatty Construction is a national construction management firm based in Dallas. Driscoll has been a go-to firm for the health system in the past and has completed a deep list of projects for it.

The architectural firm Foster + Partners will design the estimated $1.5 billion project. Foster + Partners, based in London, is a world-renowned firm that also designed the Comcast Center for Innovation and Technology. L.F. Driscoll is also the general contractor on that $1.2 billion project.

HDR Inc., one of the leading health care architects, is also on the team. The innovative firm has designed medical and health related facilities across the United States and around the world.

The health system is one of Philadelphia’s largest employers and is a huge economic engine for the region. The health system and medical school together form a $4.3 billion enterprise and the area’s most profitable medical center.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

New 29-Story Condo Tower to be Built on Jewelers Row

A new condominium tower is planned for Philadelphia’s historic Jewelers Row, just off of Seventh and Sansom Streets. The new tower at 702 Sansom Street will be 29 stories and 354 feet tall and will have 115 condominium units. The project is being developed by luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers, and is being designed by SLCE Architects. 

The controversial part is that Toll Brothers is planning to demolish five 18-foot wide, midrise buildings that housed jewelry stores and gem cutting and polishing rooms on upper floors, arguing that the buildings’ different heights and floor alignments wouldn’t be compatible with a modern, ADA-accessible building. 

Jewelers Row is a storied Center City shopping street characterized by midrise buildings devoted entirely to jewelry sales and manufacturing by small local retailers, which makes a high rise building additionally controversial. 

Efforts to stop the demolition of the existing buildings, in court and by the Zoning Board, have failed and now the developers and architects presented their plans to the Planning Commission’s Civic Design Review Board.

The new tower will be 29 stories and 354 feet tall and will have 115 condominium units.  The units will be one, two, and three bedroom units, with the main entrance and lobby on Sansom Street. 

The developers are planning 2,600 square feet of retail space in hopes of returning the retail space that will be lost when the previous buildings are demolished. The new retail likely will be jewelry stores. 

The new building will have no on-site parking, but Toll Brothers is contracting with nearby garages to provide at least 40 parking spaces and will offer a valet service out front.

There will, also, be 37 bicycle parking spaces. 

The new tower will be set back from the four-story podium, with private terraces for the fifth floor residences.