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Engineering junior Peter Beltramo couldn't help but look up and stare as he walked down Walnut Street last week.

He walks this way often and has observed Penn's newest off-campus housing option, The Radian, take shape from the start.

But while Beltramo says he has enjoyed watching the construction, he doesn't like what he sees.

The building "doesn't fit in with the area," he said. "It's big, gray and ugly so far."

The Radian complex, which will include retail and green space in its lower levels, is far from complete. Besides the currently skeletal bottom two levels, details including windows and furniture are still lacking, said Kris Osborn, project manager of The Radian for developer Inland American Communities Group, Inc.

But the "exterior skin is 100-percent complete," Osborn said, leaving members of the community free to begin forming an opinion.

"It sticks out as big and overbearing" in an area with more low-rise buildings, said Jon Pogach, a fourth-year graduate student in the School of Arts and Sciences.

However, not everyone feels as strongly as Beltramo or Pogach do about the fourteen-story structure, which is on schedule to be finished by the beginning of next semester.

"I like it so far," said Mike Thomas, an employee at Penn's Dental School. He added that he especially liked it more than another recent off-campus addition with a contemporary design, The Hub, located a few blocks away at 40th and Chestnut streets.

For others, The Radian's appeal won't be visible from the street.

"What really matters is what's inside, right?" asked Ganesh Ramakrishnan, an exchange student from Singapore. He doesn't see the exterior appearance as a problem.

College sophomore Hillel Kipnis said he thought The Radian was "not very pretty," but he's very happy about the new stores coming in.

The Radian was designed by the Philadelphia-based firm Erdy McHenry Architecture. Scott Erdy, a Penn Design School lecturer and one of the architects behind The Radian, said he believes it fits in well.

For example, Erdy said, "the way it sits back from Walnut Street . lessens the impact on the street." He also said the retail space will more closely resemble its neighbors, such as Philly Diner, in size.

Given that the retail and open space at street level will complete the look, University Architect David Hollenberg said students should "let it get finished" before they judge.

Hollenberg, along with other Penn administrators involved in the project, said they have yet to hear any negative feedback. Osborn wrote in an e-mail that members of the community even had a chance to review the design before construction began.

Despite some mixed reviews, The Radian's design has had no impact on sales, with nearly all units filled for the upcoming year.

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