Monday, January 19, 2015

Demolition to Begin for $1.2B Drexel University City Development

Drexel University plans to build housing, stores, labs, offices, parking and a public school on 2.7 million square feet on the north side of Filbert Street just west of the university, at a cost of around $1.2 billion. The 14-acre property was the former home of University City High School and Charles Drew Elementary. The development plan also includes laboratory and research space, as well as recreational space. Some 3,700 people will work on the site once it's all built out, and 4,300 workers will be hired at various stages in project construction, “producing substantial economic and fiscal benefits,” according to the university.

This week, demolition work is slated begin on buildings at the former University City High School site.

Drexel University City Development, a joint venture between Drexel and Baltimore developer Wexford Science & Technology, acquired the 14-acre site from the School District of Philadelphia in June 2014 for $25.15 million.

Wexford is also the developer of the nearby University City Science Center tower at 3737 Market Street.

The development plan totals more than 2.7 million square feet and includes a K-8 public school surrounded by residential, retail and public open space, as well as laboratory and research office space and parking. The residential housing component “will not be dormitories,” said Bob Francis, Drexel’s vice president of University Facilities.

click to enlarge
The project will create more than double the square footage of Philadelphia's tallest building, the Comcast tower.

President John Fry called it "an exciting and rare opportunity to convert an underutilized and vacant property into a vibrant center" for Drexel and its community.

Upon full completion, the project will cost around $1.2 billion, will have created 4,300 construction jobs, will house 3,700 employees and will produce substantial economic and fiscal benefits to both the City and the Commonwealth.

During construction, the university estimates the Philadelphia economic impact to include $1.2 billion in total expenditures; 4,300 jobs; and $11.2 million in tax revenues.

After completion, Drexel projects an annual Philadelphia impact of $711 million in total expenditures; 5,600 in total jobs; $20 million in tax revenue to the city and an additional $7 million of tax revenue to the School District of Philadelphia.

click to enlarge
Drexel, once a small school with a large commuter population, has rapidly expanded in the last decade and has about $2 billion worth of construction planned.

In addition to the University City High School redevelopment project, the Drexel has a large, mixed-use residential and retail complex under construction at 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue.

Lancaster Square will increase dining options and supply the beds necessary to meet the school’s housing requirement, along with retail in the northwest area of the campus.

The university also has plans to develop a 12-acre site near the 30th Street Station that would include a 6.4 million-square-foot hub of sleek new buildings for technology incubators, academic offices and retail space.

click to enlarge
The project might eventually include building over the 75-acre Amtrak rail yard, a bold idea that would represent a huge addition to the rapidly developing area.

When finished, these developments would combine academic research into fast-growing areas like information technology, energy and bio-sciences with the business interests that could commercialize them, while providing residential and retail space for an anticipated influx of young workers, all within walking distance of rail service to New York and Washington.