The Wistar Institute, located at 3601 Spruce St., was founded in 1892 as the naion's first biomedical research facility. Scientists work in the 118-year-old- building studying cancers, viruses, and autoimmune diseases.

Plans are underway to keep the Wistar Institute on the map as an internationally recognized cancer research center.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission had a number of development proposals to discuss at their routine meeting. One was the presentation of the “Institutional Development District Master Plan Amendment” — a proposal that would allow the Wistar Institute to erect a new, state of the art research facility.

The project will involve the demolition of a portion of the 1975 structure at 36th and Spruce Streets and the construction of a six-story research tower in its place.

Staci Goldberg, the director of communications at the Wistar Institute, spoke about the potential of the new structure.

She said, “The project will enable Wistar, recognized internationally for its cancer research and vaccine development, to expand its research programs and public outreach, and recruit new faculty.”

Martin Gregorski of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission gave the presentation at Tuesday’s hearing and offered that this new facility will help keep Wistar “competitive” with other research institutions.

“It’s going to allow Wistar to update their facilities,” Gregorski said.

The proposal was “well received” by the committee, Gregorki said after the hearing, adding that the new structure will have little to no effect on the surrounding community outside of Penn’s campus.

“There is not much impact on the community outside of Penn because it’s right in the heart of campus” Gregorski said.

Currently, the Wistar Institute property at 36th and Spruce consists of a late-Victorian terra cotta and brick building constructed in 1894, and a Cancer Research Building and vivarium constructed in 1975.

The new six-story structure will include a three-story sky-lit atrium, a 200-seat, sloped-floor lecture hall, state of the art laboratories and parking for more than 7,400 cars.

According to Goldberg, the construction process should be well underway by mid 2011.

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