University City Thriving, But It Needs More Help
With new development and a pool of talented Millennials who want to live and work there, University City is on track to be one of the country's prime innovation districts. That was the main takeaway from Bisnow's Future of University City event this week.
Snapped: Campus Apartments CEO David Adelman and JLL research director Lauren Gilchrist. There's opportunity in University City for housing development, especially for young professionals who mostly work in the district, but live elsewhere now, the speakers pointed out. University City's an increasingly desirable place to be; there's just nowhere to move to.
Southern Land Co founder and CEO Tim Downey and Post Brothers Apartments CEO Michael Pestronk. A step in the right direction in housing for the district is Southern Land Co's residential tower at 3601 Market St, which will have about 363 market-rate units and which will open soon. As the first residential development in University City's Science Center, it should be in high demand.
University of Pennsylvania VP Anne Papageorge, University City Science Center president and CEO Stephen Tang, and Drexel University SVP Keith Orris. Besides an influx of young talent, another reason University City's future as an innovation district is bright is the current spirit of cooperation between the major players here, our speakers noted. Together they're much more effective at making the district an innovative place than they would be as separate institutions.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia SVP Douglas Carney and Anne. Not quite all of the pieces of the puzzle are together, however. The speakers said that University City, and in particular its healthcare organization, need transportation infrastructure capacity improvements. That's important for patients from outside the district to access its hospitals and health services, and would support the continued growth of these anchor institutions.
Wexford Science & Technology VP Joseph Reagan Jr. and Pennoni Associates VP Mark Celoni. As a whole, funding from governmental agencies needs to keep up with the private and institutional investment in University City, which has been at $1B/year for the past five years, the speakers also said. Public funding still isn't commensurate with that level, and needs to increase for utilities, rail and other transit improvements.
BLT Architects principal Nicole Dress, who moderated. Sophisticated investors see the greatest opportunity—that is, the most potential for long-term profit—on the outer edge of the district now, the panelists posited. That is, the blocks immediately past the current band of gentrification.
Ballard Spahr real estate department chair Bart Mellits, who also moderated. The success of Philadelphia as a whole is also powering growth in University City, the speakers explained, suggesting the “Power of the Philadelphia Triangle.” The triangle is formed by three districts, the CBD, the Philadelphia Navy Yard and University City. If they work together, and not compete, that will be the economic engine for future growth.