south bank campus

South Bank Campus and financial incentives may mean change

We've mentioned the Forgotten Bottom neighborhood a few times previously, but we're guessing you've never visited. Tucked between Grays Ferry Ave., I-76, the Schuylkill River, and some train tracks, it's actually a little confusing to get there by car. And the walk across 34th Street isn't exactly welcoming, with cars speeding to get to and from West Philly.

So for those who have never been there, here are the details: It's got a few hundred homes, a bunch of vacant lots, a baseball field, a FedEx building, a big parking lot, and the entrance to the underutilized Dupont Crescent section of the Schuylkill River Trail. Earlier this year, we joked around and said that Penn would be buying up most of the neighborhood for housing for employees at its South Bank Campus. And more recently, we told you in all seriousness that the boundaries of Penn's Home Ownership Program had expanded to include most of the neighborhood.

Now they cross the river

As Penn continues to expand in a very physical and institutional way with additions like the new dorm at Hill Field and the 23-acre South Bank Campus, it's is also expanding incentives for employees to find housing of their own near work. For those unfamiliar, Penn has for years offered a buying program, really a forgivable loan, to full-time and staff for up to $7,500 for closing costs, down-payments, or other related costs associated with purchasing a home. The loan is also available for improvements, like carpeting, plumbing, roofing, or radon removal.

This program is limited geographically to areas surrounding Penn and this year, those boundaries expanded a smidge. They now extend westward beyond 52nd Street, the old border, to the east side of 56th Street, from Market to Paschall Avenue. The northern boundary runs along Market until 44th Street when it moves to Haverford Avenue. Interestingly, the new boundaries also include some blocks of the Forgotten Bottom neighborhood, which sits adjacent to the South Bank Campus. This is the first time the program's boundaries have extended outside of West Philly.

Will build new housing for South Bank Campus

About a year ago, we gave you the lowdown on Penn’s 23-acre South Bank campus, located on the former DuPont site between 34th St. & Grays Ferry Ave., and plans for its future. We detailed how technology and startup companies would be drawn to this site, which will eventually contain a combination of renovated and new construction buildings. A master plan from Wallace, Roberts and Todd, ostensibly due to arrive soon, should spell out exactly what's in store for this site.

Preliminary South Bank site plan

Just south of the South Bank campus is the Forgotten Bottom neighborhood, which we've mentioned a handful of times in the past. It's tucked between Grays Ferry Ave., I-76, and the Schuylkill River, and it's pretty easy to miss. Along with a few hundred homes, the neighborhood has a newer baseball field, a large FedEx building, and the entrance to the underutilized Dupont Crescent section of the Schuylkill River Trail. This neighborhood, which has seen little change in recent years, will soon be experiencing an unprecedented amount of development.

Boring retail on the way

One of God's houses has been demolished at 40th & Sansom in West Philly. Razing efforts began in December to knock down the Methodist Episcopal Church to make way for an all-glass building that will host frozen yogurt and pizza, which, after all, are God's gifts to us. One could say that a new form of God is arriving here; the new one tastes cold, smooth, creamy and like strawberry. We think that beats hell at least. The church was slated to be demolished by winter last year, with a completed building by the spring of 2013. Obviously, the timing will be a little different. P&A Associates purchased the church for $2M in 2007.

Penn is up and building again, this time in the form of a six-story office building with a green roof at 39th & Walnut. This will mark the second new structure on the block in the last few years, joining the Radian, a 14-story residential tower with various commercial offerings, including City Tap House.

An innovation district, an energy corridor, and a logistics hub are three major elements of the Lower Schuylkill Master plan, a long-term vision released by the City this month that accounts for 68 percent of the city’s underutilized and vacant industrial land.

Penn’s 23-acre South Bank campus is located on the former DuPont site between 34th St. & Grays Ferry Ave., and the Grays Ferry Crescent section of the Schuylkill River Trail park just south of the Schuylkill River where the river makes a turn before the Grays Ferry Bridge and continues south towards Bartram’s Garden and the airport. This campus represents a long-term redevelopment vision that also serves an immediate need.