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Brandywine To Break New Ground At Schuylkill Yards, Nears 1M SF In Life Sciences Pipeline

Nearly five years after first announcing Schuylkill Yards, Brandywine Realty Trust is almost ready to go vertical at its megaproject.

The West Tower at Schuylkill Yards (left)

Brandywine Realty Trust will break ground in March on a 570K SF, $287M mixed-use tower at 3025 JFK Blvd., part of the 14-acre, $3.5B innovation neighborhood the REIT is developing in partnership with landowner Drexel University, Brandywine announced on Wednesday. Dubbed the West Tower at Schuylkill Yards, the project will include 326 rental residences, 200K SF of life sciences and office space, 29K SF of indoor/outdoor amenity space and 9K SF of retail. 

Construction can move forward now that Brandywine has brought on a "global institutional investor" to take on a 45% equity stake in the West Tower, CEO Jerry Sweeney said on the company's Q4 earnings call. Brandywine anticipates securing a construction loan for the project within 90 days, targeting a 55% to 60% loan-to-value ratio, that would not kick in until 2022. The REIT has already put forward $35M of the $63M in equity it has committed to the project.

The site at 3025 JFK Blvd. is adjacent to the 30th Street Station rail hub, overlooking the public green called Drexel Square Brandywine built in 2017 to kick off the Schuylkill Yards project. Also adjacent to Drexel Square is the Bulletin Building at 3001 Market St., which Brandywine redeveloped into a headquarters for Spark Therapeutics, the superstar of Philly's white-hot gene and cell therapy industry.

So voracious is Spark's need for space that before the Bulletin Building was completed, it had already outgrown the 250K SF former newspaper office, prompting Brandywine to convert former offices across the street at 3000 Market St. to lab space for Spark. The developer is also converting two floors in its nearby Cira Centre office tower into nearly 75K SF of lab space, with more floors to be converted in the future, a Brandywine spokesperson told Bisnow.

No tenants for the 100K SF of office or 100K SF of life sciences usage at the West Tower have been announced, but Sweeney said on the earnings call that about 300K SF worth of requirements have expressed interest.  

A rendering of 3151 Market St., a 500K SF lab building within Brandywine Realty Trust's Schuylkill Yards development

Unlike with 3025 JFK Blvd., Brandywine will wait until it has achieved some degree of pre-leasing before starting construction on 3151 Market St., the 13-story, 451K SF building it recently committed to developing as lab space after its initial master plan for Schuylkill Yards called for office. With over 500K SF of "leasing pipeline" currently eyeing 3151 Market St., the project could break ground by the end of the year, Sweeney said. 

Including its two forthcoming developments and what has already been built, Brandywine's life sciences footprint in University City will total more than 920K SF, according to a spokesperson. The company can build another 3M SF for life sciences across the remaining parcels of Schuylkill Yards, and it could add even more elsewhere in the city, now that it owns a former part of the Hahnemann University Hospital complex in Center City.

The West Tower, which was estimated to stand 360 feet tall when the initial design was released, was designed by the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, along with HDR, and will feature a 29K SF indoor-outdoor amenity space on the ninth floor including a lounge, conference and coworking spaces, a fitness center, a terrace with lap and recreation pools, cabanas and grilling stations. The entirety of the residential portion will be in the narrower upper section, a Brandywine spokesperson told Bisnow.

The West Tower will eventually be linked to the neighboring East Tower by a pocket park. The residential component is being developed in partnership with the Gotham Organization, marking the New York developer's first project in Philadelphia. Brandywine is still finalizing its contract for construction management of the West Tower, a spokesperson said. The Brandywine representative also reaffirmed the company's commitment to using women- and minority-owned businesses among its subcontractors for the project.