You’re likely familiar with St. Joseph’s University, sitting on the western edge of the city, and you may also be familiar with the former USciences as well. But it’s entirely possible that you were unaware that St. Joe’s merged with USciences a couple years back, taking over the small campus wedged between Clark Park and The Woodlands in West Philly. Since this merger, St. Joe’s has cut some of the acquired programs and has an eye toward selling off the campus in its entirety. You might also be unaware of what this campus is like, so let’s take to the air to get some context of the area.

A look at the greater University City area, with the former USciences campus on the far left
A closer look at the campus, now up for sale

We decided to make a little swing around and through campus to get a better idea of what is currently there and what sort of potential there is for the future. Before we get started, let’s check out a handy-dandy map of the campus to get a better understanding of what we’re working with.

A map shows the layout in more detail, with Woodland Ave. bisecting the campus

As we made our way through the area, it was clear that the campus was sleepy, with very few students and faculty members on foot, despite the presence of filled parking lots all around. It almost felt like a movie set with the buildings giving off a bit of an uncanny valley vibe, as it was unclear which buildings were open and which were not. Beyond the stately College of Pharmacy building that stands just to the north of Woodland Ave., the campus architecture is mostly a collection of rather forgettable Post-modern and contemporary buildings that line the quad and parking lots.

But enough with the talking, let’s make our way through the campus to see what is actually up for sale.

A look at Clark Park immediately to the NW
The front facade of the College of Pharmacy building
A closer look at the grand old building
A view from Woodland Ave. looking north, not exactly gorgeous from this vantage
Looking south across Woodland Ave. at the newer part of campus
Peering into the heart of the campus
Tags welcome you to the McNeil Science and Technology Center
The Athletic and Recreation Center
Another view from one the parking lots
Integrated Professional Education Complex (IPEX), about a decade old
Another look from the main quad
Another low-rise building, seemingly home to a student center
The Living and Learning Commons student housing building on Woodland Ave.

We have to say, we weren’t exactly inspired by the campus while we were visiting, mostly due to the paucity of people. This neighborhood is absolutely fantastic, so seeing this prime spot so desolate was both sad and slightly creepy. We also had plenty of questions about what the future could hold here as we took account of the built environment.

Could we see another university jump in a purchase the space? Potentially, but this location is being off-loaded in part due to the inefficiencies of having a campus not connected to the main campus. Both Penn and Drexel are close by, but we doubt there would be much interest in these facilities, as they would likely need major updates. Could we see this turn into residential? Again, perhaps, but the current buildings would require either major adaptations or would more likely be demolished altogether. Given this huge up-front cost, we don’t envision thousands of units rising here in the next few years. Could we see light-industrial or logistics here, given its location somewhat close to other industrial uses? Perhaps, especially given the industrial zoning of the area.

We honestly are having a hard time imagining what the future looks like here. Our worry is that it will remain vacant for awhile, as the size, location, and current set-up makes this a tricky property to redevelop. Additionally, this campus sits immediately next to residential areas, meaning that any future development will need to be mindful of the neighbors, as per the guiding principles agreed to by the local stakeholders. As such, we would imagine that we’ll be visiting this campus again sometime down the road, hopefully with good news about the future instead of a bleak update of what could come to pass.