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Screen Shot 2017-09-21 at 7.20.58 PM
Screenshot from MGA Partners Architect

In a few years, Wharton students might be getting a new research center with even more classrooms, research space and study spots.

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Civic Design Review Committee, a sub-division of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, approved a Penn proposal to build a new Wharton School facility.

The new facility, which developers refer to as the Wharton Academic Research Building, is slated to be a five-story, triangle-shaped structure featuring undergraduate lecture halls and study areas, along with administrative offices and research centers. Plans for the outside of the building include a redesigned loading dock, a small open-air plaza and a bicycle rack for student and faculty use.

Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett said that Wharton is requesting about $60 million for the project. There has yet to be a timetable for construction to begin.


The building will be located at the intersection of 37th and Spruce streets and Woodland Walk, according to plans submitted to the board. This spot is adjacent to Steinberg-Dietrich Hall and almost directly across the street from the Quad.

Dan Kelley, a partner at MGA Architects and the principal designer of the building, presented the project to the CDR board. He described how the project would ease traffic congestion that arises from the area’s current loading dock design while improving accessibility for pedestrians crossing Woodland Walk. 

Kelley also said the project was largely conceived to house a new, improved substation, which is part of the electrical generation system. The underground substation that currently exists at the building’s planned location is too old, Garrett said at a University Board of Trustees committee meeting in June.

President of Southwest Philadelphia District Services Michael Ross complimented the plan at the CDR meeting.

“We have no objections [to the project],” Ross said, speaking on behalf of District Services. “[Penn has] a good economic opportunity plan and the architects, they’ve shown they’re a good company.”


Martine DeCamp, the City Planning Commission’s senior planner for University City and Southwest Philadelphia, further praised the project. In an emailed statement, she described her experience working with Penn on the building.

“In this case [of the building], the developers had already done a very nice job of addressing many of the concerns that typically come up during the [Civic Design Review] process,” Decamp wrote. “The review also includes compliance with the city’s complete streets and  sustainability goals, but UPenn and their architects generally do a nice job in this regard as well.”

At the June committee meeting, Garrett said that on top of housing the new generator, the building was also conceived as a solution to an issue currently plaguing Wharton administrators, staff and faculty — lack of space.

“The amount of my time and  senior administrators’ time in the school on finding space and on room allocation is incredible,” he said. “Desperately seeking space, I think, is a fair way to explain the state of the school.”

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