Having an Ivy League institution in your backyard can add a fun twist in the world of real estate, and the University of Pennsylvania is certainly no exception. With an endowment currently exceeding $20B, they have a few bucks to spend here and there and they aren’t bashful towards building out their campus. As the area around the school has boomed, the space available to build has gradually disappeared. But there are still some properties in this area that aren’t used for their highest and best use, like the little surface parking lot on the north side of the 3300 block of Chestnut Street. You may recall, we told you about plans for this site back in the summer of 2020, but we were a bit short on details. Now, thanks to the magic of the Civic Design Review process, we can share a much more fully fleshed out concept for this property.

Current view of site
Aerial of Penn’s campus with the site at northern end
Now that’s a step up

Amy Guttman Hall is the university’s latest endeavor, with a six floor, 116K sqft data science building coming to 3317-33 Chestnut St., clearly representing a tremendous upgrade over the silly little parking lot that’s been here for the last few decades. Designed by Lake|Flato and KSS Architects, this new building (named after Penn’s current president), will house classroom, lab, research and office space. This modern building will spice up the streetscape and will thankfully block the view of the dreary parking structure on the north side of the lot. A visit to the site also gave us a little peek of what’s to come, as a sample of the curtain wall system is staged on site.

From 34th & Chestnut
View from 33rd & Chestnut, looking northwest
V-Shaped columns bringing a modern touch to Chestnut
Incorporating some public art
Massing diagram showing the different functions of Guttman Hall
A sample of the curtain wall on site

In keeping with Penn’s commitment to carbon neutrality, this building will utilize mass timber construction and is seeking at least LEED Silver status. This is part of the University’s $750M investment into science, medicine and technology over the course of the next four years. Hey Penn, how about we put that staggering endowment to work a little harder and aim for LEED Platinum while we’re at it? Just a thought.

Vagelos Laboratory site looking east down Walnut towards Center City
Demolition very much in progress now

While we’re here, a quick update on another Penn-led project, the Vagelos Laboratory for Energy Science and Technology, which we covered back in November 2020. We are happy to report that construction is now underway at 32nd & Walnut, or at least demolition is ongoing. This project will be a huge boost to the block, and the research that happens there may eventually solve the climate crisis… so let’s hope it gets built, lickity split.