SHoP and West 8 reveal plans for Philadelphia “Innovation Neighbrhood” at Drexel University

Architecture Development East Landscape Architecture
View from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station looking west towards Drexel Square, a re- imagined One Drexel Plaza and a new esplanade along JFK Boulevard. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8

View from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station looking west towards Drexel Square, a re- imagined One Drexel Plaza and a new esplanade along JFK Boulevard. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8

Fourteen acres next to Philadelphia’s 30th Street train station will be transformed into a $3.5 billion “innovation neighborhood” designed to mix education, housing and entrepreneurship, under plans unveiled this week.

[beforeafter]Current view looking northwest towards University City. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8Future view looking northwest towards University City. Schuylkill Yards will be built intentionally in phases designed by different architects over time. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8[/beforeafter]

Schuylkill Yards is the name of the mixed-use project, which will add up to eight million square feet of offices, labs, and housing in new and recycled buildings next to the third busiest passenger rail station in the country.

Drexel University, which assembled the land and envisioned the project, announced this week that it has selected Brandywine Realty Trust of Philadelphia to be the master developer and its joint venture partner in the project.

SHoP Architects and the Dutch firm West 8 are working on the master plan. SHoP will handle the district planning and development of the architectural standards, and West 8 will be responsible for creating the public realm and development of the landscape standards.

Renderings unveiled this week show a combination of high-rise and low-rise buildings on a 10-acre site next to Drexel’s main campus, Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, and Brandywine’s Cira Centre development.

“Schuylkill Yards will undeniably transform Philadelphia’s skyline as new towers rise on the west side of the Schuylkill River,” said Gerard H. Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust.

[beforeafter]Current view from Center City looking west towards West Philadelphia. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8Future view from Center City looking west towards West Philadelphia. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8[/beforeafter]

Proposed uses in this “collaborative neighborhood” include entrepreneurial spaces, educational facilities and research laboratories, corporate offices, residential and retail spaces, hospitality and cultural venues, and public open spaces.

While the community is being designed for a wide range of users, from educational and medical institutions to residents and businesses, developers say the common theme will be the pursuit of innovation

“Drexel has always believed there’s a superior use for this unique location — essentially the 50 yard line of the Eastern Seaboard — as a neighborhood built around collaboration and innovation. That’s why the University assembled these parcels, and the time is right to put this vision into action,” said Drexel President John A. Fry. “Schuylkill Yards is more than a large-scale development; it will be the heart of America’s next great urban innovation district.”

The developers say this is a long-term investment in Philadelphia and its University City neighborhood, and it’s aimed at people who want to live or work in the area and have easy access to the train station.

Besides its proximity to 30th Street Station, Schuylkill Yards will have connections to Philadelphia’s international airport. The master plan calls for a new gateway to Drexel and University City, a real estate submarket with a high concentration of education and medical institutions.

Construction of Schuylkill Yards will take place in multiple phases over the course of approximately 20 years. As master developer, Brandywine, will oversee a team that includes Gotham Organization leading the residential development, and Longfellow Real Estate Partners leading the life sciences component.

View from 30th Street looking at Drexel Square and a re-imagined One Drexel Plaza. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8© 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8

View from 30th Street looking at Drexel Square and a re-imagined One Drexel Plaza. © 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8© 2016 SHoP Architects PC / West 8

When completed, developers say, the site will contain a mix of repurposed existing buildings and new towers connected by a “diverse network of public spaces.”

The development will begin with the creation of Drexel Square, a 1.3 acre park at 30th and Market streets, directly across from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. In addition, they say, the historic former Bulletin Building will  be reimagined by transforming its east facade with “inside/out viewports and a dynamic front screen.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the project represents “one of the most valuable assemblages of real estate” in the nation.

“Schuylkill Yards is a big step forward in University City’s transition to a next-generation business district,” he said. “It will provide our region’s current and future innovators with a central hub for collaboration and signal to the world that Philadelphia is ready for business in the 21st century’s new economy.”

Schuylkill Yards “will bring new, innovative businesses and residents to Pennsylvania, and the potential economic impact is tremendous,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, “Those who choose to make Schuylkill Yards their home will have access to many of the most innovative companies, organizations and educational institutions in our state.”

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