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06-26-20-sansom-place-east-kylie-cooper
During a June 10 Facilities and Real Estate Services meeting, Penn announced a $94 million project to renovate Sansom Place East, the only graduate student dorm on campus, by the summer of 2023. Credit: Kylie Cooper

Among the many construction projects currently underway on campus, Penn has just announced a $94 million project to renovate Sansom Place East — the only graduate student dorm on campus — by the summer of 2023.

On June 10, Facilities and Real Estate Services hosted a meeting informing trustees and members of the Penn community of new construction plans on Penn’s campus. The meeting, which had about 70 attendees, consisted of presentations that showcased each new construction project. Presenters included lead architects, the dean of the Graduate School of Education, and chief directors of FRES.

One of the largest and most anticipated projects is the Sansom Place East renovation, which features six main sub-projects, including the construction of a transitional space, a central plaza, a backyard lounge, an intimate lounge, a quiet study courtyard, and a "grill and chill" terrace.

In years past, graduate students have voiced concerns over the living conditions in Sansom Place East, citing faulty appliances, pests, an overall lack of cleanliness. The announced renovation comes nearly two years after administrators held focus groups with graduate students following widespread complaints.

FRES aims to replace windows and fully renovate interior rooms in the building, as well as expand the new lobby to bring in more natural lighting. Dorm rooms will come with washers and dryers and will be fully furnished, according to presenter Bruce Adelsberger of Barton Partners, an integrated design firm.

Project leaders will strive to protect the original architecture of the building itself while creating a modern, affordable residence for graduate students, Vice President of Penn’s Business Services Divisions Marie Witt and Senior Managing Director of University Partnerships for Greystar, a real estate developer, Julie Skolnicki, said.

The main goal of the Sansom Place East renovation is to create more affordable places to live for graduate students, Witt added.

Sansom Place West had been closed due to lack of interest in graduate student housing. During the spring 2021 semester, the building housed students who tested positive for COVID-19 and needed to isolate and quarantine.

In addition to the renovations at Sansom Place East, FRES is working on a variety of other construction projects, including renovations on the Graduate School of Education building and Pennovation Works.

This summer, work is still underway for the renovation and expansion of the GSE building, which is located near Locust Walk on 37th Street. The project will connect the GSE building and Stiteler Hall, a neighboring building, and is set to be finished in September 2023, according to FRES.

As part of the renovations, a new entrance will be added to the GSE building, as well as breakout spaces, multi-use classrooms, a student lounge, and the "Catalyst @ Penn" innovation lab, according to a presentation from GSE Dean Pam Grossman and Philip Chen of Ann Beha Architects

Chen added that the new entrance will tie the two buildings, which compose part of the social sciences quad, together smoothly. He described the new entrance as “more open" and "more transparent.”

During the FRES meeting, Penn President Amy Gutmann described the plan for the new GSE building as a “phenomenal design.” 

Penn will also renovate Pennovation Works, a 23-acre site located at 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue that houses 70 resident companies and nearly 400 employees. Pennovation Works includes the Pennovation Center, Office Building, and Lab Building, all of which can be leased by startup companies and researchers, according to the website.

Renovations will include updating parking structures; combining lab, office, manufacturing, storage, flex event, and retail space; and creating a new infrastructure plan to follow the Schuylkill River and better increase traffic patterns going into Center City, FRES Vice President Anne Papageorge said. 

Pennovation originally opened in October of 2016 and has been renovated multiple times since. Offices were renovated in 2017, and a lab building was completed in 2021.

“The Pennovation Lab will add to the entrepreneurial ecosystem already established at Pennovation Works,” Executive Director of Real Estate at FRES Ed Datz wrote in a June 17 email to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

In the last 18 months, 91 construction projects were completed on campus. The total budget for the projects was $1 billion, and they brought 420 construction workers on campus every day, according to the FRES presentation.

There is currently construction on the Class of 1949 Generational Bridge overtop 38th Street that includes repairs to brick pavers, Wunder said. Street Walkway, located on high rise field in front of Penn Hillel, is currently being upgraded from asphalt to brick.

Some of the other projects, either ongoing or completed, include construction of the Vagelos Lab, the Data Science building, and New College House West, as well as renovations of the Biotech Commons and the Quad.

New College House West is currently being prepared for its first-ever occupancy in the fall semester. The project was announced in November of 2017, and construction began in November 2018. It is currently the largest construction project taking place on campus, Executive Director of Design and Construction at FRES Mike Dausch said.

Dausch said that the opening of New College House West will have a positive impact on the undergraduate student experience. 

Dausch wrote in a June 17 email to the DP that “the additional 448 beds, dining area, and meeting spaces in the New College House West will have a large impact on students at Penn, similar to the very popular Lauder College House."

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