The Philadelphia skyline is about to change.
On Wednesday, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter broke ground on the construction of the new FMC Tower near 30th and Walnut streets. Penn owns the ground on which the 49-story tower will stand and has signed a 20-year lease for around 100,000 square feet of office space in the building, which is owned by Brandywine Realty Trust.
The tower will feature the logo of FMC Corporation, a specialty chemical company that will be globally headquartered there once the building is completed in summer 2016. It will be the sixth-tallest building in the city.
Brandywine President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Sweeney, who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony, said that “we view [this building] as a great extension of Penn Park” and an extension of Penn’s community, perhaps most for graduate students living in the nearby Evo Philly complex. Sweeney described the retail space as a possible “respite” for visitors to Penn Park, noting that a coffee shop and delicatessen are definite tenants while negotiations are underway with several possible restaurants and bars.
In addition to office and retail space, the building will feature short- and long-term residential space, conference and fitness centers. The top floor of the parking garage will become a one-acre park that will be open to the public but also available for private bookings.
The speakers at Wednesday’s groundbreaking agreed that the construction of the tower is a symbol of Philadelphia’s growth and potential. Nutter, a 1979 Wharton graduate, said that Philadelphia is the fastest-growing American city for millennials, noting the success of the Naval Yard office complex — where Urban Outfitters is headquartered — and the announcement that Forbes will host an Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia in October for successful young professionals as other signs that Philadelphia is “coming back and is on the rise.”
Gutmann referred to this as Philadelphia’s “era of the brain gain” and called the FMC project an important step toward further linking University City and Center City, a vision spelled out in her Penn Compact.
With the construction of the FMC Tower, Brandywine will have more than $1 billion invested in the West Philadelphia community. Brandywine also owns the Grove, a new building for student residences at 30th and Chestnut streets, among other projects in University City. The anticipated total investment in FMC Tower totals $385 million.
The project is also an important part of Brandywine’s collaborative vision to “change perceptions and create a new reality on the banks of the Schuylkill River,” Sweeney said. Gutmann said the area was formerly full of “derelict parking lots” that Penn purchased from the United States Post Office in 2004.
President and CEO of FMC Corporation Pierre Brondeau, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway, architect Cesar Pelli and several city and state politicians also spoke at the groundbreaking.