Thursday, January 3, 2013

UC Science Center plans 27-story apartment tower at 36 & Market

The University City Science Center, an office and lab landlord owned by a consortium of Penn, Drexel, CHoP, USP and their neighbors, says it will start work on a 27-story apartment building -- its first housing project in its 50 years -- at 3601 Market Street this fall, in a joint venture with investor Wexford Equities and Southern Land Co.

"It's really about community development, for innovators and entrepreneurs," UCSC President Stephen Tang Ph.D. told me. "It makes sense in the evolution of this comunity. We're a nonprofit, in the business of developing communities. You have to have mixed use on your campus to develop a sense of place and vibrancy beyond 9 to 5. That's been lacking on our campus for some time."

When I asked why the private sector can't supply the need, Tang demurred:  "We were deeded the land 50 years ago," and "it's time for the community to be established here as a 24/7 mixed-use kind of project. We want to be seen like Mission Bay in San Francisco or Cambridge in Massachusetts. Communities in their own right, not just analogs," or suburban-style office parks in a city. 

The center plans 364 "market-rate" apartments - studio, 1, 2, 3 bedrooms - plus 17,00 sq ft of ground-floor retail, 200 parking spaces, and common area amenities. UCSC calls it "the first new high-rise construction" for non-subsidized tenants in bustling University City since Domus in 2005.  

The units will "broaden the appeal of University City and Philadelphia's innovation cluster," said James R. Berens, president of Wexford Equities, in a statement. UCSC chief Steven Tang, like his predecessors, has been trying to lure more start-up company operators to stay in the neighborhood instead of moving to Malvern or other suburban locations once the big money starts rolling in.

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