We admit it: we like the cold. There is something incredibly invigorating about feeling an icy wind whipping across snowbanks, all while overlooking a frosty riverfront. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it can lead to some wonderful and beautiful moments, as solitude is much easier to find in the city on freezing days when standing next to an urban body of water. Wait, should we move to Chicago?

A view from the South Street Bridge at the entry point to the Schuylkill River Trail, looking serene

Nah, we’re already smack-dab in the middle of one of the best cities on the gosh-darn planet, and those South Street Bridge views are just terrific. Incidentally, even floating above the Schuylkill River, we can’t escape the hustle and bustle of construction. All we have to do is turn our gaze eastward, where CHOP is growing their eastern campus at 690 Schuylkill Ave., with the Schuylkill Avenue Research Building (SARB) joining the party.

The SARB (left) in progress next to the completed Roberts Center

What’s going up here is the second phase of CHOP’s eastern campus plan, which has slowly been making its way up since we attended a groundbreaking ceremony back in late 2022. This new building will be yet another research and lab facility, growing CHOP’s capabilities and creating some wonderful synergies with the research taking place in the Roberts Center next door. After receiving $3.25 million in state funds through the RACP program shortly after the ceremony, the curved steel of the design from Cannon Design is approximately ten floors above ground, with four more and a crown to come. This contemporary facade will not only be a striking entry point to the campus, it will also contain ground-level retail space along the South Street Bridge, further activating what had been a dead space for years. Oh, and the steel superstructure is incredibly hard core.

Some renderings of the SARB, continuing the curves
Some more seasonally-appropriate renderings

We were thrilled to see the hustle and bustle of the construction teams paired with the massive hunk of steel dangling from the tower crane. This is rising on a foundation that was built along with the first phase, helping expedite this vertical progress. We also made our way further south to check out some of the existing trails and landscaping from phase one, which will be expanded to allow for better connectivity from the neighborhood to the expanding Schuylkill River Trail – an awesomely huge benefit for this (Devil’s) pocket that has been cut off from the water for ages.

A closer look at the progress, from just off South St.
Moving closer to Schuylkill Ave. shows off the new bridge approach
Plenty happening on the frigid day
A closer look at the steel frame, and the massive hunk hanging from the crane
The existing pathways and landscaping as we continue south
The future at South & Schuylkill

It is amazing how quickly this area has transformed, becoming a slick, state-of-the-art medical facility over the past decade when plans were first announced. And those plans aren’t yet finished, as the massive parking lot just south of these two towers could see a vertical future as well. Plans for a parking podium with two similar looking towers were part of the original plans, and if current construction action is any indication, we could see another duo rising here over the next decade.

Looking across the parking lot at the existing complex
Next phases could see the towers double

As we bundled ourselves up after scoping out the surrounding area, we couldn’t help but wonder what else we might see happen here in the future. CHOP has very likely eyed up the adjacent properties, which have a wide variety of mostly industrial uses, including a few owned by city-related entities. The empty lots close by could very well be the site of future multi-family or single-family development as well. The area is surprisingly residential, where the more typical Philly rowhouses on the surrounding streets are met with the expansive Naval Square development, noticeably walled-off from its surroundings. We’d be surprised if this area didn’t change drastically in the coming years, so get those solo winter walks in while you can.