Covering the entirety of the site of the former home of University City High School in West Philadelphia, uCity Square is one of the largest developments in the entire region. A joint venture between the Science Center and Wexford Science & Technology, this ZGF-designed master plan encompasses over 10 million square feet of development across labs, offices, residential, and hotel proposals, and has been in the works since we first told you about it way back in 2016.

Over the course of the last several years, these big plans have made major strides, with several buildings now complete, along with other infrastructure improvements for this former superblock site. It’s been ages since we checked in near 36th & Market, so we thought it was high time to re-familiarize ourselves with the evolving area. As you can see below, plans call for a dense, high-rise approach, with One uCity Square sitting at the center of the innovation neighborhood. So, we’ll start our journey from there, exploring the center of the project and moving outwards as we explore the current progress.

A map of the entire project, with yet-to-be-built buildings in baby blue and our starting spot in yellow
Another look at One uCity Square, awaiting finishing touches
A rendering of the future of uCity Square

One uCity Square is the centerpiece of the project, and will soon be home to Philadelphia-based Century Therapeutics, which after announcing an expanded footprint in this facility back in the summer, have cut their workforce, leaving their future plans up in the air at the moment. This building is nearly complete and features the pop-up meeting spot The Lawn just to the south, which will be redeveloped in the future. To the east across 37th St., the Drexel Health Sciences Building is now complete, having opened this past September as a hub for many of Drexel’s health-focused programs. In addition to these two new towers, the actual uCity Square sits immediately in front of One uCity, creating a long-term public space for the community.

A rendering of the future additions that will fill the area
The newly-completed Health Sciences Building just to the south across 37th St.
A closer look of the future square in front of One uCity Square
Looking to the northwest, currently parking

Though the long-term spaces will be minimal after full build-out, there is still plenty of open space and parking in the interim. To the west, a huge surface parking lot will become three buildings in the future. To the east, the Lawn and the existing surface parking lot will become two additional buildings. While it’ll never feel especially quaint, we are thrilled by the reintroduction of both Cuthbert and 37th St. to the street grid, which will eventually lead to a more human-scaled walking experience.

To the south, currently a mix of parking and The Lawn pop-up park
Looking east towards Center City from the western end of Cuthbert St., which recently rejoined the street grid here
Samuel Powel Elementary School and Science Leadership Academy Middle School share a building on the eastern edge of the site

Two other key pieces of this project have finished recently. On the eastern side of the site, a brand-new school was built, which is now home to both Samuel Powel Elementary School and Science Learning Academy Middle School. These schools are open and bustling, with recess sounds happily filling the air during our visit. To the northern portion of the site, the 461-unit, mixed-use ANOVA uCity Square is now welcoming residents. This mid-rise building activates Lancaster Ave., with 16K sqft of retail space lining this commercial corridor. This influx of residents should help the area retain good pedestrian flow after the school and workdays end.

ANOVA uCity Square at the corner of Lancaster & Powelton Ave.
A closer look at the street presence along Lancaster Ave.

In all, it’s not bad progress for a project that is around the halfway mark. We recently told you of plans for two more towers on the south side of Market St., so we are happy to see momentum continue to build for this project that is reinventing this part of University City. With the build out of the remainder of the planned buildings at the core of the project, this will take what was once a closed off campus and turn it into a new hub of innovation, residences, and excitement. Let’s hope we see the full build out over the next several years as West Philly continues to solidify itself as one of the epicenters of life sciences along the East Coast.