By Veronica Grecu, Associate Editor
As city authorities across the country try to boost business investment and encourage companies to relocate or consolidate their local footprint, a new economic development concept is taking shape. It’s called “innovation district” and it promotes the exact opposite idea of the Silicon Valley office park model: instead of having an isolated corporate campus located outside the city, local authorities—along with universities or big employers—are now looking to revitalize neglected areas within city limits and turn them into neighborhoods where professionals can live and work.
Just like Boston, with its Innovation District, Philadelphia will have its own Innovation Neighborhood spanning 10 acres of underdeveloped real estate in the University City area. Drexel University is reportedly on the lookout for a master developer to share the university’s vision to create a transit-oriented community in a mix of education, research, retail, hospitality and residential spaces.
Envisioned as a revolutionary “Learn/Work/Live/Share” development, the proposed Innovation Neighborhood would be located next to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station and at the threshold between University City and Center City, with access to the city’s most important centers of activity.
JLL was selected to help Drexel in its quest to identify a master developer for the multi-billion project. According to the RFP, at full build out, Drexel’s Innovation Neighborhood would encompass more than 5 million square feet of mixed-use space that will be anchored by the University.
“Innovation Neighborhood represents an unprecedented opportunity for a private developer to obtain development rights in the mostly institutionally controlled University City,” said Mark Seltzer, JLL senior vice president of Development Advisory Services, in a press statement.
More specifically, Drexel’s massive development project calls for national and international corporate partners seeking to attract the pool of academic and professional talent from Drexel. Furthermore, the Innovation Neighborhood will serve as a hub for start-ups by creating educational, employment and other opportunities for Philadelphia residents. The proposed neighborhood will include market-rate and student housing options in response to the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as street-level retail spaces that are expected to enliven the project’s major buildings and create pedestrian corridors along JFK Boulevard and Market Street. Additionally, green spaces and streetscapes will interconnect the project’s buildings creating a unique sense of mobility, while parking will be integrated in the overall plan in strategically located structures.
According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, prospective developers have until October 31 to submit their proposals. Drexel expected to narrow down the list by February next year, and a final decision—which comes with a 99-year ground lease on the land—is anticipated between February and April.
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Renderings courtesy of Drexel University