It’s true that there’s very little room for Penn to expand its footprint on the edges of campus, though the university has continued to build new buildings over the last several years. Two of those buildings, the creatively named New College House and the rather derivatively named New College House West, have gone up on land that students previously enjoyed as open space. 3901 Walnut St., on the other hand, took a property that was underused as a one-story diner and turned it into a six-story office building. Much as anyone may miss the Philly Diner, you’d have to admit that the new building makes much more sense.
One thing that nobody loves is a surface parking lot. Remarkably, there are still a handful of these around Penn’s campus, with the lot at the northeast corner of 40th & Sansom serving as a notable example. Here’s a look at this parking lot, which was still operating until very recently.
Roughly two weeks ago, construction started at this site and now it looks like this:
Penn has owned this lot for decades, and simply looking at old photos of the site we see that the lot was relatively well used. Be that as it may, a surface parking lot is never ever the highest and best use for a property in a desirable location, so it’s honestly a surprise that it’s taken the university so long to consider redevelopment. Said redevelopment will entail a seven story academic building call Tangen Hall, which will be a “space for cross-campus student entrepreneurship and innovation activity.” Yeah, Wharton’s getting another building. On the plus side, the design from KSS Architects looks contemporary and cool.
According to a press release, the building will stretch over 68K sqft and will include co-working and collaboration spaces, maker spaces, a virtual reality environment, and pop-up retail space for ventures dreamed up by students. The building will also house a Venture Lab, which will serve as a “launch pad for commercializing the many ideas that are born on Penn’s campus every year.” This sounds like something that already exists just a few blocks away at the growing University City Science Center, but we don’t know that there’s such a thing as too much of this good thing. Additional innovation space in Philadelphia sounds like a fine way to grow the local economy, and compared to other major cities we are severely lacking in this department. So the more the merrier!
Speaking of “more,” we should mention that the one-story commercial building on the southeast corner of this intersection recently changed hands. We don’t imagine that anything is imminent, but we’d have to think that whoever bought this building has an eye on redeveloping the property into something more significant than what’s there today. So we could be seeing more development at this intersection sometime in the near future, which would eliminate yet another underuse near Penn’s campus.