Drexel University’s real estate development partner will build a new life sciences research complex and grocery store on Market Street between 38th and 39th streets.
Wexford Science + Technology plans to convert the space from a surface parking lot to an office, laboratory, parking, and retail space, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Penn Facilities & Real Estate Services Director of Communication Jennifer Rizzi confirmed in a written statement that the development is not part of Penn's real estate portfolio.
The development project will take place in two phases. Phase one, which will take place at 39th and Market streets, will involve constructing a 13-story building with 225,000 square feet of lab and office space. Six floors below, there will be a five-floor parking garage with 500 spaces. On the ground floor, there will be 24,000 square feet of retail space comprising a grocery store and public space including a cafe.
Phase two will take place at 38th and Market streets. The taller building will include 330,000 square feet of lab and office space, 280 parking spaces, and 15,000 square feet of retail.
West Powelton Saunders Park RCO — the registered community organization for the area — is in support of the development project, according to the Inquirer. Chair of the West Powelton RCO Pam Andrews surveyed the community residents about the project beforehand and reported finding widespread approval.
“The community at large actually are looking forward to having a supermarket there,” Andrews said.
The Wexford development will require a special exemption from the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the above-ground parking aspect of the project. If the project can secure the exemption, construction is expected to begin early next year.
Life science development is on the rise in University City, with a 2020 report by real estate firm CBRE ranking the Philadelphia region seventh in the country’s top life sciences clusters, above New York City, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Within Philadelphia, University City is home to a large amount of laboratory space in the region.
This development announcement follows Chicago and New York developers' plan to acquire land at the intersection of 38th and Chestnut streets to build a high-tech office and lab building earlier this year.
There are multiple other development projects happening concurrently in University City including One uCity Square at 37th and Warren streets, both of which include extensive laboratory space.
The new Wexford development would be directly adjacent to the University City Townhomes. The sale of the townhomes and subsequent evictions have sparked widespread protests on Penn’s campus, including during Convocation. Most recently, Penn students set up a 39-day encampment on College Green to demand that Penn preserve the UC Townhomes.
The complex had originally received attention from developers looking to build spaces for life sciences companies — an offer that the city refused.