Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Drexel plans $1 billion development at ex-high school site

Homes, stores, labs, research, parking, and maybe a school

Drexel plans $1 billion development at ex-high school site

West Philadelphia University City High School, in Philadelphia. (Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Daily News)
West Philadelphia University City High School, in Philadelphia. (Jessica Griffin / Philadelphia Daily News)

Drexel University says it plans to attract around $1 billion in financing to build housing, stores, labs, offices, parking and maybe a public school on 2.7 million square feet (more than double the size of Philadelphia's tallest building, the Comcast tower) at the 14-acre former School District of Philadelphia campus it has acquired with its partner, Baltimore developer James R. Berens' Wexford Science & Technology LLC, for $25.15 million. Berens is also the developer of the nearby 3737 Market St. tower for the University City Science Center.

The property, on the north side of Market St. just west of the University, was home to University City High School, Charles Drew Elementary School and Walnut Center. Drexel plans "residential, retail and recreational space as well as laboratory and research office space and parking," and may also build a K-8 public school, the university said in a statement. President John Fry called it "an exciting and rare opportunity to convert an underutilized and vacant property into a vibrant center" for Drexel and its community.

Some 3,700 people will work on the site once it's all built out, according to Fry, and 4,300 workers will be hired at various stages in project construction, producing "substantial economic and fiscal benefits," according to Drexel. 

“Our vision for the University City High School site is to develop a dynamic mixed-use site that brings together residential, retail and new laboratory and office space surrounding public open space," Wexford vice president Joseph Reagan said in a statement. More project propaganda here.

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PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

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