As universities have increasingly begun to promote entrepreneurship, both Penn and Drexel University are starting to both literally and metaphorically redevelop Philadelphia's landscape.
Over the past four years, Drexel has gradually acquired individual parcels that are now ready to be leased as part of its future Innovation Neighborhood — an urban space that will fuse education and research institutions with commercial enterprises. Last week, the university announced that it will collaborate with JLL, an investment management firm, to select a master developer for the Innovation Neighborhood by 2015.
The selected developer will have exclusive rights to develop 5 million square feet of space on the eastern edge of Drexel's campus. Drexel expects that the project will become a national hub for both enterprise and education.
At the same time, Penn is continuing its development of the South Bank campus with the Pennovation Center set to become "the physical embodiment and enabler of a new approach to creative commercialization of research discoveries," Penn's Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate Services Anne Papageorge said in an email.
“Many universities are in the midst of trying to better connect their mission to commercial entities and entrepreneurs as a way to provide better learning opportunities for students, support faculty and research, and improve the surrounding community,” Papageorge added.
With both Penn and Drexel's developments underway, the new businesses attracted by both the Pennovation Center and Innovation Neighborhood will help create a cohesive network that benefits both universities.
The Innovation Neighborhood "will impact not only Drexel, but all of University City because of its potential to brand and recruit corporate groups, as well as attract sponsored research for all of us,” said Keith Orris, Drexel's senior vice president for corporate relations and economic development.
The neighborhood will also lower the barriers between Drexel and Penn’s campuses since “all students and residents will be able to learn, live, work and play in this urban space,” said Mark Seltzer, senior vice president of JLL Development Advisory Services.
The project’s location will play a key role in generating the energy that Drexel envisions for the district. Adjacent to 30th Street Station and at the doorstep of Center City’s central business district, the area will attract businesses from across the country since it offers prime market conditions and high barriers to entry, Seltzer said.
With the third lowest urban office vacancy in the country, University City has $3.5 billion worth of development projects recently completed or currently underway. This submarket growth provides the developer with the “unprecedented opportunity to work in an underutilized place grounded in intellectual assets and next to the third busiest Amtrak station in the country,” Seltzer added.
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