When we think about the potential upside for real estate in the Grays Ferry neighborhood, a fewf things always come to mind. Its location is a definite strength, sitting adjacent to Grad Hospital and Point Breeze, and with easy access to the highway and West Philadelphia. Another plus for the neighborhood is the waterfront access, through the Grays Ferry Crescent section of the Schuylkill River Trail. We can only imagine what will happen when Center City people discover Grays Ferry, once this part of the trail is connected to the downtown section. Tucked into the Grays Ferry Crescent, Pennovation Works, a 23-acre office, technology, and research campus in the northwestern corner of the neighborhood, is also a major draw.

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Aerial view of Pennovation Works and the adjacent trail. Plus the recycling center next door.

Pennovation Works opened a few years back, after Penn purchased the parcel from DuPont. The Pennovation Center sits in the middle of the campus, with co-working, office, lab, and event space in a refurbished paint factory. But there are a few other buildings at Pennovation Works, including a small office building and a small lab building with frontage on Grays Ferry Avenue. The interior of the office building was renovated a couple years ago, and now it’s time for the lab building to get fixed up. It seems the lab building is getting much more significant work done, as the facade is now gone and the building has been fully gutted.

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In the past
Current view
Already renovated building next door

The renovated building will include 73K sqft of office and lab space, and will serve life services and technology entities, with a mix of companies currently working out of the campus and new ones as well. Per a flyer from Pennovation works, the building will possess an “industrial maker space aesthetic, with interior glass partitions offering focused worked environments within a shared space.” So that sounds cool. Maintaining the theme suggested by the name Pennovation Works, the expectation will be for tenants in the lab building to innovate and grow, fostering the next generation of Philadelphia-based small businesses.

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Project rendering

This shiny new building will sit across the street from the oft-forgotten Forgotten Bottom neighborhood, and almost next door to a recycling facility that’s incredibly popular with the local scavenging bird population. Still, it’s easy to squint your eyes at the surrounding properties and imagine what could happen in the coming years, as employment opportunities grow at a thriving Pennovation Works and the Schuylkill River Trail connection finally occurs. Already, we’re seeing multiple projects appear on the eastern and northern edges of Grays Ferry, but Forgotten Bottom is the area that should really benefit from additional visibility. Then again, we’ve been predicting big changes to Forgotten Bottom for years and have hardly seen any new projects, so maybe some more drastic measures are needed. A rebranding campaign with a new name, perhaps? Something a little easier to remember might be in order.