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November 08, 2017

Schuylkill Yards breaks ground in University City

The $3.5 billion urban renewal project just may be the carrot to woo Amazon

Development University City
Schuylkill Yards Renderings by SHoP Architects and West 8 Urban /for PhillyVoice

Schuylkill Yards is a projected 20-year, $3.5 billion mixed-use development on a 14-acre site next to Drexel’s main campus and adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station.

With city and state officials chanting “West is best!” the $3.5 billion Schuylkill Yards development project broke ground this morning in University City.

Thanks to a partnership between Brandywine Realty Trust and Drexel University, 14 acres west of 30th Street Station will be transformed into an urban oasis offering mixed-use development. 

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The first phase of the master plan, unveiled Wednesday, will consist of the creation of a 1.3-acre public park at the corner of 30th and Market streets called Drexel Square in the 282,000 sq. ft. footprint of the old Bulletin Building and 1.3 million sq. ft of new, mixed-use development along JFK Boulevard.

From there, on land owned by Drexel University and Brandywine, developers will expand on what they are calling Philadelphia’s largest and most innovative neighborhood engagement initiative to date.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Speakers attending the official groundbreaking of Schuylkill Yards included Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney; Jerry Sweeney President and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust; Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Drexel University President John Fry, Della Clark President of the Enterprise Center, and State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-PA).

Renderings of Schuylkill Yards show towering skyscrapers, lush Dawn Redwood trees, food trucks lining wide-berthed pedestrian paths and innovation centers boasting the highest technology. The entire project seems to broaden West Philly’s skyline and overall impression in the city.

Speakers Wednesday also winked at Amazon, hinting that Schuylkill Yards would be an ideal place for the internet giant to find comfortable. 

“Schuylkill Yards is one of the three sites we highlighted in our proposal to Amazon for making Philadelphia home for the second headquarters,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

“It’s located in University City in a world-class innovation district, adjacent to downtown and surrounded by top-ranked universities that continue to produce top talent. Anchored by the third busiest train station that’s getting a major makeover, this site has everything that Amazon would be looking for.”

Intended to be made up of educational and medical institutions, entrepreneurial spaces, research laboratories, corporate offices, hospitality venues, businesses, retail spaces, residences and open public spaces, the completion of Schuylkill Yards is approximated at 15 to 20 years.

Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Phase I of the Schuylkill Yards development in University City will begin with the creation of Drexel Square, 1.3-acre public-use park at 30th and Market Streets adjacent to 30th Street Station.

In conjunction with the Schuylkill Yards’ groundbreaking, Brandywine has promised to invest $5.6 million in a neighborhood engagement program focused on small business development, job creation, and affordable housing. 

“Schuylkill Yards will be an inclusive growth development that opens doors and creates opportunities for residents in all of our surrounding neighborhoods,” said Drexel University President John Fry.

“When all is said and done, Schuylkill Yards will be a defining development for Philadelphia and a national model for transportation-based urban innovation districts. And, if we are lucky, Drexel Square will one day soon be a gathering spot for thousands and thousands of Amazon employees.”

Brandywine also owns the nearby Cira Centre, West Philly’s first tower office building.