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University officials said yesterday that they are beginning to look for bids for the demolition and redevelopment of the 3900 block of Walnut Street.

The block currently consists of a number of storefronts and restaurants, many of which are on short leases or scheduled to be vacated.

"At this point, we are soliciting bids to understand what ideas different developers have -- to get a better understanding of the possibilities of the private sector and shape our objectives," Senior Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate Services Omar Blaik said.

The redevelopment is consistent with the University's master development plan. The plan calls for the demolition of much of the block and the creation of mixed-use development with student housing constructed on top of retail.

Blaik said that with the planned departure in the fall of the CVS located at 3915 Walnut St. and the expiration of lease agreements with the current tenants, the University is in a position to begin the process. The project will also include the space formerly occupied by the Cinemagic 3 theater.

Officials will spend the summer evaluating proposals and expect to make an announcement in the fall. Construction should begin sometime next year.

However, the University does not own the entire block and only plans on developing the area west of the Campus Copy Center, located at 3907 Walnut St., that extends to the space at 3927 Walnut formerly occupied by the Walnut Street West branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.

"We don't see the need to take on the entire block," Blaik said. "The square footage we own allows us to do what we want to do."

Blaik said that the development will probably consist of accommodations for 250 to 300 people and 50,000 square feet of retail. The new development would likely be several stories tall, though it would depend on developers' plans.

Four prospective developers are being asked to come up with a design within the mixed-use framework called for in the 2001 Campus Development Plan.

"All of the proposals are coming in with housing and retail. The question is the contents of both, to what percent is it undergraduate housing and what percent is it smaller [retail] footprints or bigger [retail] footprints for different retail uses," Blaik said.

The University would like to attract a large number of students who currently live west of 40th Street back toward campus with the additional housing.

The announcement of redevelopment has created uncertainty for the current tenants on the block, which include the Philly Diner, College Pizza, Kinko's, the Last Word Bookshop, Power Yoga Works and the University Micro Center.

"We are trying to relocate most of them ... but in the end we're not 100 percent in control of that process," Blaik said, noting that the tenants have also been aware of this development for years.

Bill Raup, the owner of Power Yoga Works at 3925 Walnut St., said that he has known about the plans for a while and that so far officials have been helpful.

"They want to keep several of the locally owned businesses in the area, if we do in fact have to move," said Raup, who added that he would like to stay.

"We love Penn, and they're happy with us. It is a good location and a good community," he said.

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