The Philadelphia office of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will move into University City by the end of 2012.
According to USCIS spokesperson Anita Moore, approximately 135 employees will relocate from the current office at 1600 Callowhill St. and the Application Support Center to 30 N. 41st St., just outside Penn’s campus.
The move was initiated because of the impending expiration of the Callowhill office’s lease, Moore said.
However, the new building hopes to yield benefits.
“The center is a great positive for existing and potential newcomers to University City and its constituents, and, of course, Philadelphia,” Urban Studies professor Eugenie Birch wrote in an email.
Bringing the Immigration Services office and the Application Support Center together will “simplify the service” for immigrants to the city, Moore said. The application center is currently located at 10300 Drummond Road in Northeast Philadelphia.
The USCIS office processes applications and petitions for citizenship and manages green card statuses. The office welcomed 17,200 new citizens in Fiscal Year 2010, according to Moore.
The building, which will be 97,000 square feet and five stories, is pre-certified LEED platinum, Scott Mazo of University Place Associates said. It will be the first building in Philadelphia to receive this pre-certified distinction.
The entire top of the roof will be a park, which will help collect and recycle rainwater, decreasing run-off, Mazo said. In addition, the building will feature solar shading and an energy efficient heating system.
University Place Associates hopes to break ground in December and looks to finish construction by the end of 2012, Mazo said.
USCIS will be able to move in some time between January and March in 2013, and will occupy around 55,000 square feet. The developers are in negotiations with another tenant who will occupy 15,000 square feet, but the 20,000-square-foot fifth floor still remains to be filled.
“Philadelphia is attracting many immigrants, but not as many as some other cities on the East Coast.,” Birch wrote. “Philadelphia has much to offer them, but has lacked a comprehensive strategy to welcome and assist them. This center will go a long way to improving the situation.”
Birch explained why immigrants can be beneficial to a city. “Take a look at those cities that have been successful ‘gateways’ — New York, Miami, Los Angeles — they are not only gaining population but also growing economically.”
A 2008 Brookings report found that almost 75 percent of Greater Philadelphia’s labor force growth since 2000 can be attributed to immigrants. The report also found that immigrants comprise about nine percent of Philadelphia’s population.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.