Some huge news dropped last week about a big change coming to University City. A long-time staple at 3801 Chestnut St. near Penn’s campus looks like it will soon be on its way out. We were nearby recently to check out where Amy Guttman Hall will rise, and noted with little regret the upcoming change of pace for this long underused property.

Current shot of 3801 Chestnut Street
Shot of Atlantis Gentleman’s Club hidden awning in the past
A cool artifact from the Original House of Pagano’s, a restaurant on this site from 1978-1984 (courtesy of phillymatchbooks)

This property is about an acre in size and has been home to a collection of small businesses over the last several decades. Abner’s Cheesesteaks is a highlight for sure, slinging cheesesteaks for lunch or late night. Sitar India Cuisine has had a presence here for quite some time, as have a variety of gentleman’s clubs, operating out of a subterranean space in the building. Add in some surface parking and a few dumpsters, and it’s honestly incredible that this building has remained rooted at this location for so many years.

Per a story in the Inquirer, the owner of this lot (who also happens to own Club Risque on Delaware Ave.) is in the process of selling the parcel to a joint venture of players in the life sciences space. A collaboration between Chicago-based Sterling Bay and Harrison Street and New York-based Botanic Properties will soon bring even more class A lab and research space to University City. This 13 story, 310K sqft proposal joins the ever-growing pipeline of planned lab space in the area, with Spark Therapeutics planning a 500K sqft space at 30th & Chestnut, Brandywine’s B.Labs up and running at the Cira Center and the mixed-use 3025 JFK Blvd. West Tower rising as part of Schuylkill Yards, in addition to the Ultra Labs proposal just west of the rail yard.

Aerial shot of the site looking east
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Rendering of the under construction 3025 JFK West Tower on the left
Ultra Labs proposal immediately to the west of the rail yard

Sterling Bay has plenty of experience with large scale projects, handling lead developer duties for the massive Lincoln Yards development on Chicago’s north side. In fact, that project even has a lab component called the Ally, which may give us some insight into what might be in the works for this site.

Ally, the lab space component of the Lincoln Yards project
A hint at what the future might look like

Sure, Abner’s is a local institution. But we are on board with the loss of Abner’s at 38th & Chestnut in exchange for a new lab building. With the explosion of venture capital dollars coming into the area paired with the growth in research, lab and manufacturing space, Philly is poised to be at the forefront of advances in healthcare both now and well into the future. Let’s just hope that Abner’s can find a new home nearby. And let’s just say we won’t be rooting quite as enthusiastically for Atlantis Gentleman’s Club to have the same luck.