Thursday, March 3, 2016

Drexel University Partnering With Brandywine On Schuylkill Yards Development

by Steve Lubetkin,
Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust will partner on the multibillion-dollar, decades-long redevelopment of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Yards project, a 14-acre master planned community.

Initial phases of the projected 20-year development plan will consist of 5 million gross square feet of mixed-use real estate on a 10-acre site next to Drexel’s main campus and adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and Brandywine’s Cira Centre. This collaborative neighborhood will feature entrepreneurial spaces, educational facilities and research laboratories, corporate offices, residential and retail spaces, hospitality and cultural venues and public open spaces.

“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,” says Drexel president John A. Fry. “We’re looking forward to a generation of partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust. We selected them as master developer because of their nationally recognized expertise and financial capacity, and also their deep understanding of the project’s potential impact on Philadelphia. Schuylkill Yards is more than a large-scale development project; it will be the heart of America’s next great urban innovation district.”

The partners characterized the project as a long-term investment in Philadelphia and its University City neighborhood, with master developer Brandywine leading the development plan.

Plan of Schuylkill Yards project
Schuylkill Yards will be an integrated urban environment, offering a collaborative and connected community made up of educational and medical institutions, businesses, residents and visitors bound together by the pursuit of innovation. Situated adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station, the third-busiest passenger rail station in the country, Schuylkill Yards will be connected to Philadelphia’s international airport and the major cities along the Northeast corridor, making it a major innovation hub on the East Coast. Schuylkill Yards will also create a new gateway to Drexel University and University City, a thriving submarket with one of the highest concentrations of higher education and medical institutions in the nation, including the University of Pennsylvania and its hospitals, University of the Sciences, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University City Science Center and the Wistar Institute.

Drexel University conducted a national search advised by Jones Lang LaSalle, which resulted in the selection of Brandywine Realty Trust, based in Philadelphia, as the master developer for the site. Brandywine is one of the largest publicly traded, full-service, integrated real estate companies in the United States, with a core focus in the Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin markets.

“Drexel University and Brandywine’s shared vision for the continued renaissance of University City provides a strong foundation for a long-term partnership. Together, we will create a dynamic and world-class innovation hub to attract the brightest minds to our region,” says Gerard H. Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine. “Schuylkill Yards will undeniably transform Philadelphia’s skyline as new towers rise on the west side of the Schuylkill River. Brandywine’s existing Cira Centre, EVO and FMC Tower at Cira Centre South projects in University City will provide a synergistic connection to Schuylkill Yards, creating a seamless access point to Center City and strengthening the eastern edge of University City as a whole.”

As master developer, Brandywine will oversee an experienced development team that includes Gotham Organization, Inc. leading the residential development, and Longfellow Real Estate Partners leading the life sciences component. Schuylkill Yards will be the first project in Philadelphia for both firms. Brandywine and Drexel University jointly selected the design team consisting of SHoP Architects and West 8. SHoP Architects 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.

The development of Schuylkill Yards will take place in multiple phases over the course of approximately 20 years. When completed, the site is expected to host a combination of repurposed existing buildings and new tower structures with world-class design and programming and a diverse network of public spaces to incorporate the natural world in the urban environment. Schuylkill Yards’ 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. The historic former Philadelphia Bulletin Building will also be reimagined by transforming the east facade with inside/out viewports and a dynamic front screen.

Schuylkill Yards reflects the partners’ commitment to driving inclusive economic growth in the City of Philadelphia. The project will create thousands of jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Schuylkill Yards will incorporate specific pathways for residents of adjacent neighborhoods to share in the employment and business development opportunities, benefit from neighborhood revitalization, and access services offered by the partners and community of Schuylkill Yards. Additionally, Schuylkill Yards is designated as part of a Keystone Opportunity Zone, providing future businesses and residents with tax benefits that will further stimulate economic growth.

“Schuylkill Yards is a big step forward in University City’s transition to a next-generation business district. 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,” says Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. “Drexel University and Brandywine are creating one of the most valuable assemblages of real estate in the nation, and all of Philadelphia’s residents, institutions, businesses and visitors will share in the prosperity generated by this new center of innovation.”

“Schuylkill Yards will bring new, innovative businesses and residents to Pennsylvania, and the potential economic impact is tremendous,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf says. “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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