Philadelphia is a first class city, home to several large corporations and a host of small businesses, but “Eds and Meds” are the biggest drivers of the local economy. The eds are the local colleges and universities, like Penn, Drexel, Temple, and University of the Arts, to name a few. The meds are the local hospitals, med schools, and health care systems, including HUP, Jefferson, CHOP, Temple (making a second appearance of sorts), Tower, and some others too. Business is booming for the two biggest hospital systems, Penn Medicine and Jefferson, and both are constantly growing either through acquisitions, capital improvements, or both.

Penn Medicine’s latest foray into expanding its capacity is coming in the form of a new building, called The Pavilion. This edifice has appeared where 33rd Street meets Convention Avenue, on a parcel where Penn Tower once stood. As we explained once before, that building was constructed in the 1970s as a Hilton hotel, but slowly turned into a HUP office building. Penn Tower was a fixture on the West Philly skyline for 40 years, screaming “I was built in the 70s!” all the while. We were not sad when it was torn down in 2016.

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Penn Tower, demoed a few years ago

In late 2016, we shared renderings of the Pavilion after looking over its CDR packet. At the time, we also told you to expect 500 patient rooms, 47 operating/interventional spaces, and a new emergency department. After initial renderings resembled an Embassy Suites hotel from the 1990s, we were pretty excited when the new renderings from Foster + Partners had a more futuristic look, and we compared the building to a spaceship. If you visit this part of town today, you’ll see that the spaceship has pretty much landed. Nobody has come out yet, though, asking to be taken to our leader. Maybe when the place is 100% finished.

The Pavilion
Viewed along with the Penn Museum
Getting closer to 33rd Street
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From 34th Street
As seen from Civic Center Blvd.

Originally, the plans called for the $1.5B (!) building to be completed in early 2021. But when COVID-19 hit, crews started working around the clock to prepare some of the rooms in the Pavilion much sooner, to help handle hospital overflow. We know that 120 patient rooms were ready as of the end of April, with a plan to use them for non-COVID patients. We’re not sure whether those rooms ever got used, but with the city moving into the yellow phase on Friday, we suspect the Pavilion has gone back to being a construction site for the next few months. By the time the building is complete early next year, let’s hope for a COVID vaccine- and maybe we’ll take a tour of the facilities that doesn’t require any social distancing.