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Five Hot Trends in Higher-Ed Retail


As you're getting ready to send Junior off to college, you’ve probably noticed that today’s student shopping experience has come a long way. (Nobody protests on the quad anymore... there's probably an app for it.) MSC University VP Matt Stein tells us how retail has come into its own on Philly’s campuses.

1) DREXEL: All About Strategic Partnerships

One of University City’s strengths is the unified vision shared by its anchor institutions—including Drexel, Penn, HUP, Wexford Science Center, and the umbrella-org University City District. Under prez John Fry’s leadership, Drexel has undertaken an aggressive program to partner with national developers, bringing equity and delivering the first true community-supporting retail to campus. 

Chestnut Square at 33rd & Chestnut was developed by American Campus Communities through a ground-lease arrangement with Drexel, providing two floors and 20k SF of retail space already filled by Shake Shack, Joe, CoZara, Zavino, and others. Drexel and ACC are doing the same at The Summit under construction at 34th & Lancaster, which will be completed by fall 2015.

2) PENN: Repositioning and Planning for the Future

Top retailers have upped their estimates of Philly, Matt tells us: newcomers like Uniqlo are on the way, and former one-store chains are now seeking out additional locations. While Penn continues to develop mission-critical projects, the institution is encouraging higher-end retailers with local flavor to land on campus—think Hubbub, Hip City Veg and Federal Donuts. These retailers are proving that University City can support its own scene without worries of cannibalizing Center City.

3) TEMPLE: Daily-use Needs and Entertainment Options

The most radical shift at Temple is the school's transition to a residential campus. Community-supportive retail has provided much-needed conveniences and entertainment options for the North Broad Street corridor: The Edge and Progress Plaza (think Pearl Movie Theater and Fresh Grocer Supermarket) provide some of these daily-use conveniences. With the upcoming university master plan in its final stages of approval, Matt says we can expect additional positive changes for the community.

4) JEFFERSON: Improving Vibrancy on the Street

The unified Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals has made it its goal to keep students as well as faculty and support staff on campus when it’s time to grab a coffee or a bite. Matt says to expect non-programmed spaces (like lobbies) to transition to retail spots, delivering ground-floor activity with market-rate tenants that will add vibrancy to the street. As Jefferson moves forward with new projects, this means even more opportunities for cool restaurants and food options for all of us.

5) EVERYWHERE: Retailers Finding Their College Niche

Universities see retail as a tool for engaging with their constituents and surrounding communities, furthering Philly’s reputation a top college town in America. One of the tricks for retailers, Matt says, is to learn how to succeed on campuses that undergo dynamic shifts throughout the school year. Locally owned Saxbys Coffee has embraced campuses for its business, designing stores to fit uniquely within their operating environment and improve the campus experience through premium products, one-of-a-kind menu items and longer hours. Saxbys just opened a store near Lehigh University and plans nine more locations this year, giving it a total of 39 stores operating nationwide.