It doesn’t make any sense that the southeast corner of 36th & Sansom was sitting vacant since at least the 1960s. It’s right on the edge of campus, with the Penn Law building located a block to the east and the Penn bookstore across the street. Had the property been in private hands, it would have surely been redeveloped a long time ago. But Penn owns the property, which allowed for what could be kindly described as a very measured development timeline.

36th Sansom Old
In the past

A little over three years ago, we told you that construction was just getting underway for a new building, the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics. This building, when it’s finished, will house the Political Science and Economics departments at Penn in a space that covers over 100K sqft. Similar to what Penn did with Perry World House a few blocks away, they’re combining an old and a new building to create the Perelman Center. The old building, at 36th & Walnut, was originally home to the West Philadelphia Title and Trust Company. The new building appeared on the formerly vacant lot on Sansom Street and was designed by KPMB Architects. In a vacuum, the new building looks pretty good, but we’re especially pleased that they went with something that so strongly contrasts with the adjacent structure.

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Current view at 36th & Sansom
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Viewed from the east
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Viewed from the west
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Viewed from Walnut Street

You can see in the images, the building is now in the final stages of construction. A Daily Pennsylvanian story from earlier this year suggests that the building will be ready to go by next month, just in time for graduation. That same story indicates that the original plan called for the $77.6M project to be done a few months ago. Sure, the delay stinks for members of the class of 2018 that won’t get to enjoy the new building. But the building will be a boon for the next fifty classes of poli-sci and econ majors, while threading an impressive needle, architecturally. And as a fringe benefit, it fills in a space that’s been sitting vacant for no good reason, probably since before you were born.