News and Articles

2010

University of Pennsylvania opens grand new fitness facility
The Philadelphia Inquirer
August 16, 2010
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The Music Building Gets a Tune Up
The Pennsylvania Gazette
July 2010
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Preservation Awards: restorations, programs and campaigns
PlanPhilly
May 5, 2010
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2009

U. of Pennsylvania Will Spend $40-Million on a New 'Penn Park'
Chronicle of Higher Education
March 6, 2009
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Editorial: Penn Park A welcome green addition
The Philadelphia Inquirer
March 6, 2009
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Once Parking Lots, Now a Park: University of Pennsylvania Converts Postal Lands to Open Space
March 03, 2009
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University of Pennsylvania turning old Postal Service parking into park
Philadelphia Business Journal
March 3, 2009
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Penn to convert post-office parking lots into park
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com
March 3, 2009
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2008

Renovation of arts building will be music to Penn’s ears
Philadelphia Business Journal
by Bob Finkelstein Special to the Business Journal
December 12, 2008
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Penn takes part in construction of mixed-use building
Philadelphia Business Journal
by Natalie Kostelni Staff Writer
November 21, 2008
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Slow Build-Up
Philadelphia Weekly
Meir Rinde
March 19, 2008
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Colleges Teach 'Urban Development 101'
Wall Street Journal
Nick Timraos
February 27, 2008
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High Profile Projects at Berkeley and Penn
Chronicle of Higher Education
Scott Carlson
February 12, 2008
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2007

Penn Sprouts Down-to-Earth Green Roof
Architectural Record
Violet Law
October 25, 2007
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New Towers to Rise on 30th Street
Inquirer
Suzette Parmley
August 31, 2007
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New Project to Change University City Landscape
6abc.com
August 31, 2007
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Brandywine Realty's University City gateway plans moving forward
Philadelphia Business Journal
August 31, 2007
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U. of P. Moving Ahead With 30th St. Development Plan
by KYW's Matt Leon

KYW Radio
August 31, 2007
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At Penn, A New Degree of Comfort
Schools turn to private sector for better student housing.
By Suzette Parmley, Staff Writer

Inquirer
July 28, 2007
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Plans for a 40-story 'Cira South' building are in the wind
Philadelphia Business Journal
May 25, 2007
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Changing Skyline | Bridge that's way beyond pedestrian
By Inga Saffron
Inquirer Architecture Critic

Philadelphia Inquirer April 20, 2007
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Rural Colleges Seek New Edge and Urbanize
New York Times
February 7, 2007
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Penn Makes the Connection
University’s Acquisition of Postal Service Land Links West with East

LifeStyle Magazine
January 2007
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Slow Build-Up
by Meir Rinde, Philadelphia Weekly
philadelphiaweekly.com
March 19, 2008

A massive redevelopment is slowly, almost invisibly, gearing up near the west bank of the Schuylkill River.

It’s not on the bank itself, which consists principally of the traffic-choked Schuylkill Expressway and isn’t slated for any major changes. Nor is it, at least for the near future, in the railroad-track-filled channel that runs along the west side of the highway around Chestnut and Walnut streets.

But the new development does include more than 21 acres of prime real estate south of 30th Street Station, and constitutes a major expansion for the University of Pennsylvania. The school bought the old post office property last summer for $50.6 million, sold the landmark building to a developer, and is designing park areas, several athletic fields and a north-south boardwalk on the site’s sprawling parking lot.

The developer Brandywine Realty Trust has grand plans for a complex dubbed Cira Centre South on part of the property. It would include a 42-story office, hotel and condo tower on Walnut Street, a large adjoining parking garage, and an apartment tower on Chestnut Street.

Construction of the garage is slated to begin by early fall and end in 2010; the towers are tentatively expected to be finished in 2011. Demolition has begun inside the post office building, which will be renovated to become an IRS office.

Collectively, the projects will cost more than $2 billion, create a new West Philly skyline, expand the university’s reach, and potentially revitalize a barren district dominated by traffic and industrial uses.

"This provides Penn the opportunity to connect the campus to Center City," says Anne Papageorge, vice president for facilities and real estate at the university. "There¡¦s been somewhat of a wasteland or a barrier between Center City and Penn, and this allows us to bridge that gap and to create more opportunities for a host of activities."

The university has heralded the project as the consummation of years of aspiration. The public, not so much.

"It¡¦s been discussed in the neighborhoods, but not with the passion that comes with some of the developments Penn undertakes, mostly because it doesn’t have any direct impact on the neighbors," says Carol Jenkins, University City’s Democratic ward leader.

"It’s hard to get people all enthused about development that’s totally within institutions themselves," she says.

Public reaction to the project might also be muted because it’s part of an even larger plan so ambitious that it seems speculative.

For example, this year Penn plans to build a meandering elevated walkway over the Amtrak lines, to give access to Hollenback athletic center while the South Street bridge is torn down and rebuilt. The university’s master plan then calls for a new pedestrian bridge over the Schuylkill, connecting the elevated walkway and the school’s Locust Walk to the Fitler Square area.

"I have to take these things with a grain of salt," Jenkins says of Penn¡¦s proposals. "It’s a pretty massive undertaking they’re proposing. I’m sure there are going to be many, many, many revisions."

The long-term plans also call for four 15-story medical-related towers near the southern tip of riverfront property Penn owns, about a mile down the river from the postal lands. The university is already constructing two hospital buildings just to the west, in the growing medical district near Children’s Hospital.

At the same time, the massive scope of Penn’s and Brandywine’s ambitions won’t completely remake the landscape, or improve access to the river.

When Providence, R.I., underwent revitalization in the 1990s, it relocated train lines out of its central district. But the Amtrak and freight lines along the Schuylkill will remain for the most part untouched. Penn’s design sketches show students strolling under an old elevated train track on their way to the picturesque new bridge.

And the prospect of Brandywine buying the rights to cover and build over the Amtrak lines adjacent to the post office site seems dim. Cira Centre South would be oriented to the north, south and west, but not toward the rail lines, highway and river to the east. Papageorge says Brandywine is in discussions about the track area with Amtrak, but Brandywine says it knows of "no plans" by Amtrak for the property.

High Profile Projects at Berkeley and Penn
by Scott Carlson, Chronicle of Higher Education
chronicle.com/blogs
February 12, 2008

Choices, choices: SmithGroup will design a new Neural and Behavioral Sciences building for the University of Pennsylvania, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian. The building, which will be designed with an emphasis on sustainability, will have research and teaching facilities, as well as an auditorium. It is due to open in 2011. The newspaper also reports that the university is in the process of choosing an architect for another big project, an $80-million nanotechnology center at 32nd and Walnut that will serve as gatepost for people coming to the campus from downtown. The university architect, David Hollenberg, told the newspaper that Penn’s "overriding design guideline" was to bring the university "the best contemporary architecture we can."

And more choices: On the other coast, the University of California at Berkeley is also hiring architects for two high-profile projects. One, according to The Berkeley Daily Planet, is a 50,000-square-foot structure that will be constructed, mostly underground, in the courtyard of the School of Law (or, as the Daily Planet refers to it, the School Formerly Known as Boalt Hall). The second is a renovation of Moore Ruble Yudell’s delightful Haas School of Business (right), which opened in 1995. The architect for that project will be expected to “prepare a space program that corrects existing deficiencies“ in the 234,000-square-foot complex.

Not a groundbreaking, exactly: When the University of Arkansas at Little Rock kicked off construction of a $30-million engineering-and-information-technology addition Monday, it wasn¡¦t with shovels. Instead, according to Arkansas Business, construction workers were lifted onto an existing building to begin a skywalk that will connect it to the new facility. Cromwell Architects Engineers will design the 120,000-square-foot addition.

Penn to Sprout Down-to-Earth Green Roof
by Violet Law, Architectural Record
archrecord.construction.com
October 25, 2007

Most green roofs are located out of sight and beyond reach, but the future tenants of a residential and retail project now under construction in Philadelphia will get to enjoy a green roof designed to serve as both a garden and a storm-water treatment system.

The roof will be located atop the ground-floor retail podium of the Radian, a 154-unit privately owned student housing-complex on the University of Pennsylvania's Philadelphia campus.Ringed by dense plantings of black-eyed Susans and other flowering species, the space is located next to an outdoor dining area.

"Our goal is to make it approachable and put it in people's face so that they understand the environmental value," says David McHenry, AIA, of Erdy McHenry Architecture in Philadelphia and the project's lead architect. "It's functional, and there is an educational component to it."

The 12,000-square-foot green roof, which covers 20 percent of the Radian's total footprint, was designed primarily to satisfy the city's storm water control regulations. Special drains will capture runoff from impervious sections of the terrace, funneling it into an irrigation system for the plants. Locally based Pennoni Associates is responsible for the landscaping and engineering, while Roofscapes, a green-roof specialist also of Philadelphia, is providing technical assistance.

Although the Radian's developer, University Partners, is not seeking LEED certification, the project's other sustainable features include a prefabricated rain-screen wall-panel system. The facade patterning responds to the varied size of the dwelling units and thus helps reduce the massing of the 14-story tower. Construction is scheduled to finish in August 2008.

New towers to rise on 30th St.
by Suzette Parmley, Inquirer Staff Writer phillynews.com
August 31, 2007

The University of Pennsylvania and Brandywine Realty Trust will announce plans today for a dramatic residential, commercial and hotel project on 30th Street. The 14-acre Cira Centre South project, which includes a 40- to 50-story office tower on Walnut Street and a 25- to 30-story residential tower on Chestnut Street, will be developed by a partnership of the university and Brandywine, which is based in Radnor.

Penn president Amy Gutmann said in an interview yesterday that the project would help unite University City with Center City and provide a gleaming "Gateway to the University." The partners said the towers were designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the architectural firm that created the prismatic Cira Centre, completed last year just north of 30th Street Station.

Cira Centre South will also include the previously announced conversion of the 862,000-square-foot U.S. Postal Service building at 30th and Market Streets into offices for 5,000 employees of the IRS.

The post office conversion and construction of a 2,400-space parking garage will be the $365 million first phase of the project, to be completed by 2010. The office and residential towers will follow, to be completed by 2012 at a cost of about $400 million. The university has agreed to lease 100,000 square feet of the office tower's 400,000 to 500,000 square feet.

Assembling the 14-acre parcel has taken years. Penn and the Postal Service began talks about five years ago. Keating Development Co. was an agent for the Postal Service in the negotiations in 2001, which began about the same time Brandywine was undertaking the development of Cira Centre.

The university completed its purchase of the land last month, university and Brandywine officials said yesterday. "Penn has wanted this land for two decades, and the stars finally aligned and we were prepared," said Gutmann. "We had the opportunity, and we brought great partners into it." Gutmann said the development would be the first step of the university's master plan - called Penn Connects - to create athletic fields and open space, offices, and other amenities for its burgeoning student and faculty population.

"It provides a much-needed connector between our campus and Center City, and improves the urban infrastructure of the university and creates a vital new center of commerce for the whole region," she said. "It's converting a surface parking lot and eyesores into a mixed-use, greener, 24/7 neighborhood that unites and enlivens both sides of the Schuylkill."

The deal will let Brandywine, owner of a $5.5 billion portfolio of properties with more than 40 million square feet of office space nationally, fulfill its goal of expanding the scope of the original 32-story Cira Centre. This is the first time the firm has partnered with a major university.

The company has five other development projects under way, at Princeton; Plymouth Meeting; Oakland, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Fairfax County, Va. "It represents the culmination of many years of work of trying to create a commercial mixed-use facility within University City," said Jerry Sweeney, president and chief executive officer of Brandywine. "It validates the investment thesis for Cira Centre and provides a tremendous economic engine for West Philadelphia and University City."

Brandywine entered into a 90-year ground lease with Penn for the development site.

The company plans to demolish the post office annex to build the towers and the parking garage. Half of the 2,400 spaces in the planned garage will be dedicated to the IRS, which signed a 20-year lease this week for space in the main post office building starting in 2010. The IRS will use the new site as its Philadelphia regional headquarters.

Sweeney said in an interview yesterday at his Cira Centre office that he had wanted to develop a similar building since it opened. He said Brandywine had been actively looking for other development opportunities in University City since 2001.

He said the overall development site, similar to Cira Centre, sits on a Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone, which provides for an abatement on city and state taxes for 15 years. The program was originally created to give companies incentives to relocate their firms to distressed or depressed areas.

"With the general tax benefits of the KOIZ, there is a market for a property like this within the general vicinity of Center City," said Kevin Gillen, vice president of economic-consulting firm Econsult and a Wharton School economist who tracks housing and public-policy issues.

Sweeney said the residential tower planned for Chestnut and 30th Streets would offer about 225 rental units, with some ground-level retail. He said no price had been set for the rental units.

The target market would be employees in the area and students from Penn and Drexel Universities, he said, "who view that area as a desirable place to live and work."

"All the market conditions are favorable as far as increasing the residential component in this part of this city," Sweeney said. "There are 135,000 people within walking distance of the Cira Centre. There are tremendous demographics at play that certainly support a demand for increased residential, commercial or retail."

Gillen said the housing-market fundamentals today were far more supportive of rental units than they were 15 years ago, during the last housing downturn. "The Center City residential market remains robust," he said. "Even though the housing market is slacking, the rental market has not. In fact, there are a number of condo owners who have considered converting their units to rentals."

Sweeney said the office tower would also house a 225-room hotel and 50 condominium units on the top floors.

Brandywine is financing the first phase of the project. Demolition of the parking garage and renovation of the post office will commence in a few weeks, he said.

Sweeney said that he was looking for financial partners to build the towers and that their construction was subject to "market and financial conditions." He said they were anticipated to be completed by 2012. He also said that, with Penn committing to a long-term lease in the building, he was confident Brandywine would proceed "with the contemplated development we have outlined."

A Penn spokesman said the space the administrators would vacate when they moved to the new Cira Centre would be converted into teaching and research use. Landlocked and unable to move farther west without disrupting residential neighborhoods, Penn had to acquire the land, said Craig Carnaroli, the university's executive vice president.

"There was no other option," he said. "We've been eyeing that land since the early '80s."

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New Project to Change University City Landscape
6abc.com
August 31, 2007

The enormous project will alter Philadelphia's left bank. The plan: two gleaming glass towers of up to 30 and 50 stories between Chestnut and Walnut Streets.

Brandywine Realty Trust, the developer of the distinctive Cira tower, and the University of Pennsylvania are partners in the endeavor. The 1960's vintage postal annex will be demolished to make way for what is dubbed Cira Center South. The adjoining landmark post office will be rehabbed and become home to 5000 IRS workers.

Penn will take four floors of the new office building. The shorter tower will be apartments.

Penn Vice President Craig Carnaroli said the goal is connecting University City with Center City.

The area is now a kind of industrial no man's land. Ask any of the 5000 people a day that walk this stretch of Walnut Street.

The plan is for work in the old post office building to begin later this year, and be ready for the IRS in 2010. As for the towers, the hope is they will be open for business two years later.

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Brandywine Realty's University City gateway plans moving forward
Philadelphia Business Journal
August 31, 2007

Brandywine Realty Trust is moving forward with a long-anticipated, mixed-used development on land next to 30th Street Station in West Philadelphia that will include a companion to its Cira Centre building and expansive office space for the Internal Revenue Service.

The project Brandywine plans in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania will entirely recast that part of Philadelphia and firmly establish a gateway to University City, as well as link Philadelphia's financial and educational hubs, something planners and city officials have long desired.

The development would sit on several parcels that are part of a Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone, a state designation made to attract development to downtrodden areas. The controversial zones allow tenants breaks on state and local taxes. In this case, at least three proposed tenants, Penn, the U.S. Postal Service and the IRS, are already tax-exempt. However, taxable firms are expected to try and lease space. Brandywine's nearby Cira Centre lured companies from Center City and the suburbs that now receive local and state tax breaks.

The development would encompass 30th Street between Market and Walnut streets, including the main post office building at 30th and Market. Brandywine (NYSE:BDN) bought it for $28 million and will completely renovate the five-story, 862,000-square-foot structure. The IRS has signed a 20-year lease on the entire building and will have 5,000 people working out of the site beginning in the fall of 2010. The U.S. Postal Service will continue to occupy on a short term 220,000 square feet.

Brandywine estimated the redevelopment, including acquisition costs, will run $265 million. The Radnor, Pa., real estate investment trust can tap tax credits to help offset some costs.

Brandywine will also build a new mixed-use building on Penn land currently used as the U.S. Post Office Truck Terminal Annex. Brandywine said it arranged a 90-year ground lease on the block-sized property and will raze the annex to construct the new building called Cira Centre South.

That complex will have 400,000 to 500,000 square feet of office space, of which Penn will lease 100,000 square feet. The remainder of the office space will be offered to tenants, who will receive KOIZ tax breaks. Cira South will also have a 733,000-square-foot, 2,400-space parking garage. The parking facility is expected to be completed by mid-2010. Brandywine would eventually like to incorporate a hotel, retail and residential space on the site.

The university kept 14 acres that are currently parking lots used by the post office. Penn will begin this fall to move forward with a project called: "Penn Connects — A Vision For the Future," which will include open space, athletic fields and academic, cultural, commercial and residential buildings. The IRS is consolidating operations from Northeast Philadephia and other sites. The post office has built a modern distribution center near Philadelphia International Airport.

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U. of P. Moving Ahead With 30th St. Development Plan
by KYW's Matt Leon

KYW Radio
August 31, 2007

The University of Pennsylvania is set to redevelop several acres of US Postal Service facilities in the area of 30th Street between Market and Walnut.

Penn president Amy Gutmann (in file photo at right) says this is an idea that has been a long time in the making: "The University of Pennsylvania has looked to purchase the postal lands for about 20 years and we now own them. And we now have a great campus development plan we call 'Penn Connects,' which is our road map for transforming these 24 industrial acres into a very lively 24/7 neighborhood and connecting West Philadelphia with center city."

Gutmann says the redevelopment plan includes teaching and research buildings, housing, retail, and commercial development. She says the project will begin this year and continue for about the next 20.

Meanwhile, Penn has sold the Post Office building at 30th and Market Streets to Brandywine Realty, which will lease it to the IRS.

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At Penn, A New Degree of Comfort
Schools turn to private sector for better student housing.
By Suzette Parmley, Staff Writer
Inquirer
July 28, 2007

University of Pennsylvania student Colena Davis has been watching the hulking structure going up at 39th and Walnut Streets across from campus with great interest. It could be her future home.

The $50 million student apartment complex will have all the comforts of home and more, which is good because the 21-year-old senior has been commuting to Penn from her parents’ Blue Bell house for the last three years.

“All the perks are amazing, and it’s in a prime location,” Davis said.

When the Radian opens in August 2008, Davis said, she expects to be starting graduate work at Penn’s veterinary school, and she hopes to be renting one of the 150 apartments. With its fitness center, 24/7 cafe, club room and sun deck, the Radian promises to have the latest in what college students want.

The Radian is being built and completely financed by a private developer on land leased by the University of Pennsylvania. The arrangement is similar to two other deals Penn has done for apartment complexes recently completed on Chestnut Street. Increasingly, universities nationwide are outsourcing their campus living operations to deal with tightening budgets and replace outmoded dormitories.

Temple University in North Philadelphia supported a similar development, the Edge at Avenue North, last year with a local developer. Emory University in Atlanta is about to break ground on one, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore just completed a student housing project with private money.

Campus Apartments Inc., the Philadelphia-based student housing company that is one of the largest in the nation, has done a half-dozen similar deals with colleges over the last five years. "The universities get what they want, and they don't have to allocate the capital for it," said David Adelman, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Paul W. Shoup, senior manager at Smart Business Advisory & Consulting L.L.C. of Devon, who has advised universities and the companies that have worked with them on such projects, said having private firms underwrite these developments was akin to schools' outsourcing meals and bookstores.

“Now they’re outsourcing student housing,” he said. He said the consensus was “that it’s a growing trend. The search among universities for alternate means of financing housing on campuses across the country has been a big challenge.”

Bart Blatstein, president and chief executive officer of Tower Investments Inc., put up the equity and borrowed from banks to complete the $100 million Avenue North next to Temple’s campus on land leased by Beech Interplex Inc., a nonprofit group. The project includes 300 apartments and 1,200 beds for Temple students, 100,000 square feet of retail space, and a seven-screen movie theater.

“The neighborhood was underserved,” Blatstein, a 1976 Temple alum, said, “and Temple was short of beds, so it was a natural fit.” At Penn, FirstWorthing Residential Co. L.P. of Dallas and its Inland American Communities Group Inc. subsidiary in Chicago are putting up the entire $50 million for the 14-story Radian. The firms entered into a 65-year lease with Penn for the 1.5-acre parcel, and worked closely with the school on the Radian's design, which includes 40,000 square feet of retail space along Walnut Street.

Paul Sehnert, Penn’s director of real estate development, said his school, like any household, was trying to stretch its tight budget.

“If we can use third-party private equity and third-party commercial debt, it’s somebody else’s project to do our mission. We’re preserving our capital for research and education — the kinds of things we need to do,” he said.

About three dozen colleges and universities, including Harvard, have sought Penn's advice on privately financed housing.

Penn junior Kevin Benjamin frequently walks past the Radian construction site, where a banner reads, “We’re Building the Future of Student Living.° “I know definitely . . . I would not go back on campus,” said Benjamin, 20, who just moved out of his dorm and into a house at 39th and Sansom. “The room was like a box. The living room was tiny, and the closet was tiny.”

Kevin Gillen, a research fellow at Penn’s Wharton School and a vice president of the Philadelphia economic consulting firm Econsult Corp. who specializes in residential real estate and public policy, said the needs of todayŠs students are far different from a decade ago.

“They need greater electrical load capacity for their cell phones, iPods, their PlayStations, and 100-year-old rowhomes don't have the electrical infrastructure and amenities to support all that,” he said. “They also prefer more modern aesthetics, more environmentally compatible places to live, and large windows with lots of light.”

The two other ritzy student apartment complexes near Penn are the Hub and Domus, where one-bedroom apartments can cost about $2,600 a month. Both opened in the last seven months and, once Radian is completed, the new units should help alleviate the high housing demand in what real estate agents say has become a hot University City area in West Philadelphia.

The population of University City has never been nearly as high as it is now,” said Melani Lamond, an associate broker with Urban & Bye, Realtor, who has lived in University City since 1971 and sold real estate there for 24 years.

University City is now the second-most-expensive neighborhood in Philadelphia after Center City for single-family homes, Gillen said. For the latest quarter, the average house price was $304,000 in University City and $456,000 in Center City.

“Historically, University City was disproportionately populated by students up until about 10 years ago, when Penn’s mortgage program began to attract more relatively affluent adults back into the neighborhood,” Gillen said. “That started to set in motion the transitioning of University City's housing stock from predominantly students to working singles, couples and families.”

Gillen said that rising house prices and rents pushed out students, but that new restaurants, a supermarket and other attractions had pulled them back toward Penn’s campus in recent years.

The new apartments have become an additional marketing tool. Penn president Amy Gutmann said the university received a record 22,000 undergraduate applications this year for 2,400 slots. There was also a 25 percent uptick in the number of campus visits this summer, according to the office of the dean of admissions. “They’re coming from all over the country and all over the world to Penn,° Gutmann said at the Radian’s ceremonial groundbreaking earlier this month. “This will be another part of what we can show them when they come to campus.”

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Plans for a 40-story ‘Cira South’ building are in the wind
Philadelphia Business Journal
May 25, 2007

Brandywine Realty Trust is working on a concept called “Cira South,” which would stand as a 40-story companion tower to Cira Centre in University City.

Though plans are still evolving, Cira South would be a mixed-used project totaling an estimated 1.7 million square feet, according to people familiar with the project. It is proposed that the building would be constructed on what is referred to as the old post office annex, a building that would be torn down to make way for the new structure. The annex is on Market Street between Walnut and Chestnut streets

The plan being bandied about has the building designed with a mix of uses such as retail, a hotel, some office space and possibly even a residential component, according to sources. The hotel would ease the demand already placed on University City's two other main hotels, the Inn at Penn and the Sheraton, during graduations, special weekends and even for the executive programs run by the University of Pennsylvania. Whether Penn would occupy a portion of the office space has yet to be worked out, but it remains a possibility, according to people familiar with the project.

Brandywine would not comment on the project. However, people familiar with it say the plans remain in the early concept phase but are making progress. Penn is still working on closing on the purchase of the post office property, which would include the annex site, said Tony Sorrentino, Penn spokesman. Once the closing is finalized, Penn will be able to offer more details on plans for that area. “We want to convert industrial land into vibrant spaces and attract private development,” Sorrentino said.

The annex was constructed in 1962 for the post office and consists of a 172,000-square-foot processing and distribution facility on 2.58 acres.

Brandywine is reportedly in talks with Penn to enter into a long-term lease agreement with the university to develop the annex property, which would be razed. The school typically prefers to strike long-term lease arrangements with developers on properties it owns to keep control of them for an extended period.

For example, Dranoff Properties entered into a 50-year ground lease with Penn for the redevelopment of a hulking 700,000-square-foot building at 32nd and Walnut streets that is now the Left Bank, which has 282 apartments, 100,000 square feet of office space, 22,000 square feet of retail space and parking.

Brandywine has been reticent to discuss its plans for University City. In a recent conference call with financial analysts, Brandywine CEO Jerry Sweeney said the company hasn't disclosed anything it’s working on in the West Philadelphia neighborhood. Sweeney did say the area is "ripe for continued gentrification" and Brandywine continues to work on a number of different scenarios that could lead to future development opportunities.

“The economic climate is correct, the numbers make sense and there are opportunities we can harvest,” Sweeney said during that conference call. The company constructed Cira Centre, a 28-story, 728,000-square-foot office building adjacent to 30th Street Station, and has maintained options to build on other Amtrak-controlled sites in the vicinity of Cira Centre. That building was designated by the state as a Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone, which meant that businesses that moved there were exempt from most state and city taxes. It is not clear whether the new building would have that designation.

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Changing Skyline | Bridge that’s way beyond pedestrian
By Inga Saffron
Inquirer Architecture Critic

Philadelphia Inquirer April 20, 2007

For most bridge designers, the goal is to connect two points in the shortest, most efficient way. But clearly British engineer Cecil Balmond would rather take the long way home. His latest design, a pedestrian bridge for the University of Pennsylvania, promises to be a full-blown adventure trek, with looping turns and whooshing slaloms.

On the outside, the design resembles one of those hollow braided finger toys found in Chinatown. But users moving up its gentle east-side ramp will soon discover themselves sucked into a coiled spiral that acts like David's slingshot to propel them through the tubelike space of the main span. Without any vertical supports, that 145-foot-long braided tube appears to defy gravity.

And to think the bridge's only purpose is to help students cross some railroad tracks. For Balmond, an acclaimed engineer with the London firm Ove Arup, the need to span part of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor turned out to be a happy excuse to tinker with bridge-building traditions. When his railroad overpass sets down in summer 2008, in the university's back country between Franklin Field and the Schuylkill Expressway, it will be part sculpture, part mathematical puzzle, part thrill ride.

The Weave Bridge, as Balmond calls it, is also starting to look like the great modern bridge that Philadelphia has longed for. Of course, plenty can go wrong between now and installation. But its ambition alone should buoy the spirits of a citizenry deeply disappointed by the banality of the new South Street Bridge design.

At least we have that project to thank for the existence of the Weave Bridge. For all its engineering hijinks, Balmond's $2.4 million structure has a job to do. When the South Street Bridge goes down in 2008 for an expected 18-month reconstruction, Penn's playing fields and Hollenback Hall will be severed from the campus by Amtrak's rail line. The Weave Bridge will serve as a lifeline to Penn's southeastern corner.

Penn initially planned to construct a purely functional, temporary walkway over the Amtrak rails. But as it was putting the finishing touches on its new 30-year master plan with consultant Sasaki Associates, the university began to see the overpass as a kick-off project that could demonstrate its commitment to bold architecture. It sought out Balmond, who, despite being an engineer, teaches an architecture studio in the School of Design.

Balmond, who was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Nigeria, isn't as famous as Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish engineer who has muscled into architecture, but that may soon change. For more than three decades, Balmond has been the guy with the slide rule (and the computer models) behind the amazing structural gymnastics of Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, and UNStudio's Ben van Berkel.

The common denominator in the work of those architects is a fascination with tricky internal spaces - and the innovative engineering structures that are necessary to make such layouts and volumes possible. It's clear that projects like Koolhaas' Mobius-strip CCTV tower in Beijing couldn't have been designed without Balmond's collaboration.

With the completion last year of Balmond's own charmingly asymmetrical bridge in Coimbra, Portugal, he finally got to affix his signature to a project. The Weave Bridge will be an important next step for Balmond's Advanced Geometry Unit at Arup, a sort of think tank, or R&D unit, that he founded inside the engineering giant. Working together with Daniel Bosia and a select group of designers, he specializes in finding elegant solutions to engineering problems.

Balmond may be dipping more into architecture, but engineering structure remains his point of departure. Unlike Frank Gehry, who is happy to drape his bloblike forms onto any old framework that can hold them up, Balmond sees structure and design as one and the same. There are no vertical supports holding up the Weave Bridge because its twisting stainless-steel strips carry the load, in the way that cables and trusses do on conventional bridges.

Balmond came up with the idea of supporting the span with crisscrossing strands of metal after visiting the site, and noting its sharp contrasts. Penn's playing fields exist as a pastoral oasis, oblivious to three of Philadelphia's busiest transit arteries - the Amtrak rails, Interstate 76, and SEPTA's train lines.

Balmond said he quickly realized that the purpose of his bridge was to weave the disparate landscape elements together. By the next day, he had drawn six sketches showing double helixes of twisted strands. They became both the bridge's main design element and its structure.

On the east side of the Amtrak rails, the strands will wind themselves into a spiral. It becomes a pivot that directs users up the ramp and over the tracks. But the form also serves as a storehouse of coiled energy that provides what Balmond calls a "shot-and-release" function, the better to launch users across the main span. It's like someone who takes a few steps back before making a jump.

As Balmond's strands unfurl, they create an irregular geometry of triangular openings. Because Amtrak demands that any walkway over its electrified lines have solid walls, he was obliged to fill in the spaces with solid materials. The lower triangles and floors will be wood timbers, but Penn hopes Amtrak will allow the upper portions to be a translucent polycarbonate, so bridge users will have a vague sense of their surroundings. Except for the crisscrossing steel, the tube's roof will be open to the sky.

Even with the translucent panels and the sky openings, people could feel a bit claustrophobic inside the tube, not to mention a little unsafe. That would certainly undercut Balmond's desire to make the crossing something to be experienced and enjoyed. The university promises to keep the area well-policed.

Perhaps a day will come when Balmond's bridge isn't so far off the beaten path. Although his railway overpass should not be confused with Penn's proposed pedestrian bridge over the Schuylkill River,it could perhaps serve as its launch pad. If the university puts this much effort into a simple overpass, imagine what it could do with a full-size bridge. The results might almost be enough to make us forget our disappointment over the South Street bridge.

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Rural Colleges Seek New Edge and Urbanize
New York Times
February 7, 2007

CONWAY, Ark. — Across from the red-brick Collegiate Gothic campus of Hendrix College in central Arkansas lie a few beat-up ball fields, tennis courts and an expanse of woods. Downtown Conway is only a half-dozen blocks away, but it is “not overflowing with amenities,” as Frank H. Cox, a member of the Hendrix board of trustees, diplomatically put it.

For decades, colleges like Hendrix in rural areas of the country embraced a pastoral ideal, presenting themselves as oases of scholarship surrounded by nothing more distracting than lush farmland and rolling hills. But many officials at such institutions have decided that students today want something completely different: urban buzz. “You can’t market yourself as bucolic,” J. Timothy Cloyd, the Hendrix president, said.

At the same time, officials have realized that a more urbanized version of the ideal campus could attract a population well past its college years — working people and retiring baby boomers — if there is housing to suit them. And so a new concept of the college campus is taking root: a small city in the country that is not reserved for only the young.

At Hendrix, construction will begin this year on a large urban-style village on the 130 acres of ball fields and woods that the college owns across the street from the main campus, with stores, restaurants and offices. Soon, officials hope, will come nearly 200 single-family houses, many with rental apartments above the garage; 400 town houses, apartments and loft-style condominiums; and a charter school with the college as a participant.

On the corner of the property, a large student fitness center is already being built, which will be available to the owners of houses and condominiums and to the apartment dwellers, probably for a fee, as will many of the college’s other cultural and educational facilities.

Similar projects are under way at about a dozen other institutions nationwide, including the University of Connecticut in Storrs; the University of Notre Dame; Furman University in Greenville, S.C., where a retirement community on campus is being planned; and Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., where construction will begin soon on 120 condominium apartments on campus for working people and retirees.

“It’s part of a pattern of colleges and universities realizing that they have elements that are appealing to a population far broader than 18- to 25-year-olds,” said Ralph J. Hexter, president of Hampshire College. “It’s often said of a college education, ‘It’s a shame it’s wasted on the young.’ ”The distinctive marks of many of these campuses are shops, restaurants, offices and housing that, together, create a destination. The idea is to produce street life and to promote social interaction.

Nearly all of these developments are being built by institutions with vast tracts of unused land; officials hope to take advantage of that asset to help build endowments. Generally, these are also institutions that are not looking to expand significantly the size of their student bodies. Students graduating from high school these days seem particularly attracted to urban settings, said Dr. Cloyd, the Hendrix president. Many come from the suburbs, he said.

“I think students crave the kind of vitality you have in an urban space,” Dr. Cloyd said. “The images that reveal an active social life are urban-based.” Storrs, for example, is home to a 20,000-student flagship state university, but it is a hamlet in the hills of eastern Connecticut. Downtown consists of three small strip malls, and university officials say the lack of a vibrant college town is frequently cited by students who decline offers of admission or decide to transfer. Officials are seeking final zoning approvals for a large mixed-use complex that will include shops, office space and up to 800 apartments and town houses.

“This would make it easier for them to attract students,” said Cleo Szmygiel, a Connecticut freshman from New York City. “There is really not a lot to do here.”

Keelan King, a sophomore from Scotia, N.Y., said of the university, “It’s a nice campus, but there’s nothing around here, a place to eat, someplace to go after a basketball game.”

The new complex, Storrs Center, is meant to provide a place to go. “We’re never going to be Boston,” said M. Dolan Evanovich, the university’s vice provost for enrollment management. “But having a quintessential New England town with 100 businesses and a town green will be the missing link for us.” Housing for people unaffiliated with the university is essential to the project’s long-term success, said Cynthia van Zelm, executive director of the Mansfield Downtown Partnership, a coalition of university, town and community officials working with a developer to create the complex. (Storrs is a hamlet in the town of Mansfield.)

“You need to have a population of people living downtown,” Ms. van Zelm said. “We need that 24-hour presence.”

Even the very urban University of Pennsylvania is building a large complex on land it owns across from its law school in Philadelphia; the 295 apartments will be available to the public. So will other housing Penn plans to build on a 25-acre site it is buying next to campus.

“When you picture a global university, you picture urban,” said Amy Gutmann, the Penn president. “You picture restaurants, art galleries, you picture day and night, taking in movies, live performances.”

If Penn thinks it needs to make its campus more dense and lively, imagine the yearning for some touches of urban life at Hendrix, a small liberal arts college in Conway, a modest but growing city of 53,000.

Like the developments in Storrs, the Hendrix project will be built in a style known as New Urbanism. Buildings will be close to the street and roads kept narrow to encourage pedestrian traffic and de-emphasize cars. The neighborhood and its buildings are meant to recall the housing and shops built in American towns in the first half of the 20th century.

“It is about creating walkable places that are sustainable and gratifying on a human scale,” said Robert L. Chapman, managing director of Traditional Neighborhood Development Partners, the developer of what will be called the Village at Hendrix. The college is contributing the land and will invest $8 million to $10 million in the project’s first phase, said Dr. Cloyd, the Hendrix president, and it will share profits with the developer.

Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., which has created several programs to revive adjacent neighborhoods and to encourage faculty to live nearby, is building an apartment complex for undergraduates across from the main entrance to campus. There will be retail stores on the first floor.

“I think liberal arts colleges and universities are all about the serendipitous moments,” said John Fry, president of Franklin & Marshall. “You’re in the coffee shop on a Saturday morning sipping a cup of coffee and you run into a professor, and two hours later you’ve had one of those transformative moments.”

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Penn Makes the Connection
University’s Acquisition of Postal Service Land Links West with East

LifeStyle Magazine
January 2007

If you walk or drive westward across any of the Schuylkill River bridges connecting Center City with West Philadelphia, descriptions of the surrounding city blocks and streetscapes that will not enter your mind are “easy access,” “pedestrian-friendly,” “culturally-stimulating” or “beautifully maintained.” At these major east meets west junctures, pedestrians and commuters encounter an unappealing ensemble of concrete office buildings, potholed pavement, grid-locked traffic, the drone of the Schuylkill Expressway, and twisted rail and freight lines where AMTRAK, SEPTA and CSX converge.

But that is about to change with the University of Pennsylvania’s bold new 30-year campus development plan called Penn Connects.

Described as “a vision for accelerating our advance from excellence to eminence,” Penn Connects will transform the historic Ivy League institution’s eastern edge to the riverfront while reconnecting and welcoming Center City to West Philly.

If all goes as planned, Penn Connects will have a dramatic impact on 21st century Philadelphia -- not just on Penn’s University City campus.

By mid-century, a once disjointed, barren, industrialized landscape will transform into beautiful, open public green space with athletic fields, a lively retail shopping and dining corridor along Walnut Street, a new mixed-use neighborhood filled with housing, art and cultural venues, recreational facilities, state-of-the-art research space, student and conference centers.

Penn will work collaboratively with the City of Philadelphia, its University City neighbors and all major stakeholders to create new “gateways” to the University via pedestrian bridges and pathways. In time, anyone will be able to stroll to or from the campus, across the Schuylkill River to neighborhoods throughout Center City.

“Penn’s planned expansion eastward to the Schuylkill River will fulfill a vision we have been working on for a long time – closing the gap between West Philadelphia and Center City,” notes Stephanie Naidoff, Philadelphia’s director of commerce. How Will Penn Connect?

In July, Penn acquired 24-acres of land and properties around 30th and Market streets from the U. S. Postal Service. Last year, the Postal Service moved its Philadelphia Processing and Distribution Center from 30th Street to a new facility in Southwest Philadelphia.

Penn took possession of the post office’s main building across from 30th Street Station, which it plans to preserve and change from industrial to commercial use. It also owns the postal annex property, a parking garage at 31st and Chestnut streets and a 14-acre surface parking lot near Walnut Street. In addition, Penn owns several parcels of land near the western banks of the Schuylkill River, currently used as athletic fields, sporting, parking or maintenance facilities. In total, Penn has more than 42 acres to redevelop and new opportunities to enhance, improve or extend campus landmarks such as Locust Walk, Franklin Field and the Palestra.

When Penn’s president, Dr. Amy Gutmann, took hold of the University’s reins three years ago, she made development of the eastern campus a major priority of her new administration.

“We will embrace inclusion as an employer, as a neighbor and as a developer of our campus to the east,” she noted in her October 2004 inaugural address, “working collaboratively, we will convert the parking lots of the postal lands into research facilities and playing fields.”

Shortly afterward, the University introduced its historic plans with the completion of an extensive award-winning architectural strategic planning study conducted by Sasaki & Associates of Massachusetts. The study received professional awards in 2006 by the Boston Society of Architects and the Philadelphia Chapter of Lambda Alpha International. In 2007, the American Society of Landscape Architects honored it for excellence in analysis and planning.

The estimated cost of this mammoth undertaking is $1.94 billion. Penn, the city’s largest private employer and the second largest employer in Pennsylvania, plans to finance most of it.

Craig Carnaroli, the University’s executive vice president, says that funding will come from a variety of sources including a capital campaign, internal resources, government support and some borrowing.

“This year, we’ll be using the 14-acre surface parking lot site to kickoff the University’s fund-raising campaign,” notes Carnaroli. The University of Pennsylvania Office of Communications issued a press release last summer when Penn Connects was first unveiled. Here are some highlights that will forever change the landscape of University City and West Philly’s connecting entrances to Center City:

  • Improve gateways between the campus, Center City and surrounding West Philadelphia, specifically at Walnut and South streets.
  • Extend Locust Walk eastward into what will be new open fields.
  • Convert surface parking lots into new sports and recreation facilities and open parks.
  • Create new plazas east of Franklin Field and provide new public gathering spaces that link the postal lands to the campus.
  • Improve physical connectivity that links the campus with the transit hub at 30th Street Station and Market Street.
  • Accommodate future development in academics and research and future expansion potential between Penn’s medical campus and the river.
  • Build a 400-bed residence hall planned in a quadrangle type setting with open space plan and walkway at Chestnut Street between 33rd and 34th streets.
  • Develop a nanotechnology research center for the School of Engineering and Applied Science at 32nd Walnut streets, which is currently a surface parking lot.

The Greening of University City

Gutmann uses an analogy from the lyrics of “Big Yellow Taxi,” a 1960s folk classic to describe what’s planned for the first phase of the redevelopment project.

“If you’re familiar with the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song, ‘they paved paradise and put up a parking lot,’ well, we’ll be doing the reverse by turning those parking lots into green spaces. In the immediate future, you’ll see a greener campus and a greener edge along the Schuylkill River” notes Gutmann, “and Penn will be better connected internally through beautiful new walkways.”

Naidoff adds: “Greening the areas close to the water, improving the gateways to their campus and University City, adding new housing and more retail, a lively arts corridor, and at the same time expanding their footprint and allowing their institution to grow as it prospers is all nothing short of visionary. It is exciting for the city as it is sure to add jobs and opportunity for many Philadelphians.”

Dennis Pieprz, president of Sasaki & Associates and principal on the project, says that the transformation of the postal parking lots into a park with sports and recreational fields “will improve pedestrian connections and make the eastern part of campus accessible, useful and a destination for students and visitors.”

Locust Walk, the core of Penn’s campus life, plays a prominent role in the campus connections. Pieprz notes that by transforming a significant part of the postal lands into parks and recreation space “the extension of Locust Walk becomes a reality.”

“The university will now extend beyond the Palestra and Franklin Field areas toward the east. Locust Walk is a key link west to the heart of the university and beyond,” says Pieprz.

Extending Locust Walk includes making improvements to the space on the north side of Franklin Field. “In the first phase of Penn Connects’ athletic program, we’ll be reclaiming space near Franklin Field’s archways for better uses. Right now it is used for parking,” notes Carnaroli.

Down by the Riverside
Penn Connects complements what is already well underway along “Schuylkill Banks,” the newly branded destination place for the lower part of the Schuylkill River.

The Schuylkill River Development Corporation (SRDC) is leading a $2.5 billion redevelopment project in partnership with the city, state, and public and private entities to revitalize an eight-mile stretch of the east and west sides of the Schuylkill River, south of the Fairmount Water Works to the Delaware River.

“It’s an old, industrial part of the river that was not accessible. In fact, you can’t even see it,” notes Joseph R. Syrnick, SRDC’s chairman and CEO. “ Now that the industrial use is largely gone, we’re trying to create a more productive public use by adding trails, greenways, and activity along the river as well as improving the bridges. We want to make this part of the river a connecting force and possible destination place,” says Syrnick, “we want to reconnect people to the river.”

“And anything we do along or on the river supports Penn,” adds Syrnick.

Over the next few years, Penn, SRDC and Philadelphia’s Department of Streets will work collaboratively on several bridge improvement projects including reconstruction of the South Street bridge, scheduled to start in the summer 2008, and ongoing pedestrian and streetscape upgrades to the JFK Bridge.

Penn is working on a separate pedestrian bridge project, called the Weave Bridge, named for its unusual crisscrossing, tubelike design. The 145-foot steel structure will be built over the Amtrak rail lines, as a permanent walkway and connector while the South Street Bridge is down. Cecil Balmond, an internationally renowned structural engineer from the British engineering firm Arup, designed the Weave Bridge.

Penn Connects Raises the Bar

“One of the neat things about this plan is Penn can grow without displacing people, unlike some of our urban peers. It is mainly industrial space,” notes Carnaroli.

Other Ivy League institutions, such as Harvard and Columbia, and local universities, including Temple and St. Joseph’s, have major land acquisition and redevelopment plans underway. But none of their plans have the unprecedented advantages of Penn’s for raising the university’s national and international visibility. Nor do other institutions come close to Penn’s plans in size or scale.

“Penn Connects will make us exponentially more attractive to recruit the best and brightest students and the most pre-eminent faculty,” notes Gutmann.

In addition to adding green space in the immediate future, Gutmann says there will be an emphasis on more development of science and research facilities, including a proposed nanotechnology facility at 32nd and Walnut streets.

Carnaroli says that the Penn trustees approved a feasibility study for this project in June, and a combined fund-raising campaign is in the works by the schools of Engineering and Arts and Sciences.

“Now that we’re in control of our own destiny, you‘ll see positive changes in various phases of design with momentum toward construction,” notes Carnaroli. “We’re moving ahead on multiple initiatives to enhance both academic and student life.”

Other campus construction projects either in design or underway enhancing Penn’s master plan to “connect” include: the Radian, a student apartment community at 39th and Walnut; the new Annenberg Public Policy Center at 36th Street between Locust Walk and Walnut Street; and the School of Medicine’s planned $370 million biomedical research facility, targeted for completion in 2010. This facility will be located near the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, opening in 2008 and the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, opening in 2009. All facilities will be located on the former Civic Center site near the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

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