university city science center

In West Philly, development is in swing across the board, from residential to commercial, one-off to large-scale. Much of the recent growth in University City has been inspired by rampant institutional growth over the last several years. New buildings at universities and hospitals often means new jobs and considerable benefit to the local economy.

Take 38th & Market for example. 3737 Market is an 11-story collaboration between University City Science Center and Wexford Science & Technology that will include an expansion for Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, ground-floor retail, and office space. Currently, it's receiving its exterior finishings, which make the building look like a new pair of RayBan's. To the east, plans are on the boards to replace a surface parking lot at 3601 Market St. with a 28-story apartment building.

Now that all of University City's biggest institutions, including Drexel, the Science Center, and Penn are building new towers, pockets in nearby neighborhoods where development has been quiet for years are now seeing improvement, like rapid development near 40th & Baring (though if you look at the architecture over there, improvement might not really be the right word).

When you come over the Spring Garden Bridge there are three new projects now under construction on Spring Garden before you hit 35th Street. From Spring Garden Street, the bulk of traffic heads south. But last week, on the lookout for new projects, we decided to head north.

Quadplex under construction

It wasn't long before we spotted 516 N. 34th St., a new corner quadplex under construction at 34th & Brandywine. The property was purchased in June 2012 for $80K. Surely, it will be home to more student housing, like the five triplexes recently built up the street.

The first L.E.E.D. Platinum pre-certified building in Philadelphia opened its doors last month in West Powelton. 2.0 University Place houses U.S. Community and Immigration Services, as well as offices for Shraga Studios, the firm that designed this structure, which meets its visitors with a glass face at 41st & Powelton.

The building

The completion of the project marks perhaps the beginning of a new era of development in West Powelton. Only one block north, along the 4000 block of Baring St., development has all but filled up the entire block. A vacant buffet only two years ago, development has continued almost unabated until recently, because there's nowhere left to build. And while we were out and about last week, we noticed a block north of that, a string of vacant homes on the 4000 block of Spring Garden Street is now getting some love.

Last week, we passed along an update on plans from the University City Science Center to build an apartment building at 36th & Market. Today, we have an update on another Science Center project, located a couple of blocks away at 38th & Market. We first told you about this project last fall.

Rendering from UJMN Architects

In case you don't remember, 3737 Market is a joint venture between the Science Center and Wexford Science & Technology, and will contain an expansion for Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. The 11 story structure will also include ground-floor retail and office space. As of now, it's about halfway up in terms of steel. We'll check back here again in a few months, once things are topped off.

Back in January, we shared the news that the University City Science Center would be building a large apartment building at 3601 Market St., representing their first ever residential undertaking. A press release that we received the other day confirms that the Science Center and their partner Southern Land Company have secured $110M in financing, meaning the project is officially a go. Currently, the parcel is a surface parking lot (boooo) but the project, as proposed, would utterly transform the currently uninspiring locale.

Current view

The project has changed somewhat since we first shared the details. It's grown one floor, and will now be a 28 story building that has an interior square-footage of nearly 450K sqft. As the building has grown, so too have the number of apartments increased. Now, 375 apartments ranging in price from $1,300 to $2,800 a month will be included in the building. Residents will be able to enjoy amenities like a fitness center and a pool on the 6th floor. Unchanged from the previously described plan is 15K sqft of ground floor retail and parking for 200 cars.

In late May, we told you about plans from the folks at People’s Emergency Center to rehab Hawthorne Hall. The plan for this curved, mud-toned, historic, and beautiful building along the 3800 block of Lancaster Avenue is to create a retail space for Mighty Writers, a restaurant space, residential units, and a theater space. When snapped photos of Hawthorne Hall, we noticed fencing, a foundation, and the framework of a former gas station sign across the street, and remembered a project we told you about almost a year ago.

As Drexel University and the Penn continue to expand, as well as USciences and the University City Science Center, the neighborhood housing equation continues to change. We've covered numerous examples in the past of new construction and renovation pushing northward, into West Powelton and Mantua, with some blocks gaining tons of new structures in a very short period of time.

Take, for example, the 4000 block of Baring Street in West Powelton, which burst into our development consciousness in the last couple of years like an awakening.  More than 30 new units have been created along this block since 2011, and most recently, we were not at all surprised to find that two triplexes and one duplex are under construction between 4042-52 Baring St. at  the southeast intersection of Budd & Baring, across the street from the Elwyn Adult Program center.

Another piece of Philadelphia history seems as though it will soon be demolished. A 25-story mixed-use high rise featuring apartments, retail and office space is planned for 38th & Chestnut next to the Philadelphia Episcopal Church in University City. Last summer, the Historical Commission granted the Church permission to demolish two historic brownstones located on Chestnut Street to make way for the new building. The Church has hired Radnor Property Group to construct the building, which could be completed by 2015, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

On Market Street in University City, west of Drexel and beyond, the collegiate fueled capital development begins to fade as you move further west. The University City Science Center is one institution poised, at least theoretically, to improve Market Street between 34th and 39th Streets.

Their recent announcement of a new 11-story tower on the northeast corner of 38th & Market is one step in that direction. But the Science Center’s expansion has unfolded at a slower pace than its planners previously envisioned.

Over the past few years in University City there have been almost as many new major development projects as new freshman classes. From the new Drexel business school, a new gateway to University Citythe Krishna P. Singh Center for Nanotechnology, to hotels and additional new proposed Drexel development at 34th and Lancaster Avenue, the area is undergoing change that will mean a new face for the cityscape west of the Schuylkill.

It's the kind of change that might cause students who attended school in University City in years past to say, "wish that was here when I was around."

As if it wanted to join in on the development dance Penn and Drexel have been choreographing the past few years, the University City Science Center broke ground on construction of an 11-story tower at 3737 Market Street in late September.

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