Schuylkill Yards Breaks Ground With Drexel Square


The sprawling parking lot in front of the former Bulletin Building at 3001 Market Street gets ready for a green makeover. Drexel Square, a 1.3 acre community park, is the first project for Phase 1 of Schuylkill Yards. | Photo: Michael Bixler

Philadelphia’s next large-scale redevelopment project kicked off today with the official groundbreaking of Schuylkill Yards. Phase 1 of the $3.5 billion “innovation district,” a partnership between Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust, will begin with the construction of Drexel Square, a 1.3 acre community park built on top of a parking lot adjacent to the former offices and production plant of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin at 30th and Market Streets. Demolition of the parking lot is already underway.

At the opening ceremony for the groundbreaking of the ambitious, multi-phase development, John Fry, president of Drexel University, said,“We envision a world class innovation district where researchers, start ups, and established companies come together to collaborate, to create, and drive Philadelphia’s future economy.”

Mayor Jim Kenney pointed out the immediate, transformative economic potential of the project, stating “Schyulkill Yards is one of the three sites we highlighted in our proposal to Amazon for making Philadelphia the home of their second headquarters. Located in University City, a world-class innovation neighborhood, adjacent to downtown, surrounded by top-ranking universities that continue to produce top talent, and entered by the third busiest train station in the nation, this site has everything Amazon is looking for.”

When complete, Drexel Square, designed by SHoP Architects and West 8, architects of the Schuylkill Yards master plan, will feature a 12,064 square-foot elliptical lawn with access point from all sides, a network of granite paving and seat edges, and a small urban oasis at the Market Street gateway to University City. The park will be filled with raised planter beds under the canopy of 30 Dawn Redwood trees and fitted with 60-foot light poles.

View from 30th Street looking at Drexel Square and a remade One Drexel Plaza, the former offices and production plant of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. | Rendering: SHoP Architects and West 8

Drexel Square will be the centerpiece of roughly 6.5 acres of public green space and streetscape improvements planned for Schuylkill Yards. Major renovations to the former Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Building aka One Drexel Plaza, the construction of two mixed use towers at 3003 and 3025 JFK Boulevard, and the overall development of 4.6 acres of educational, entrepreneurial, and research facilities are included in plans for Phase I. Drexel University and Brandywine Realty anticipates the evolution of Schuylkill Yards to take place over a gradual period of 15-20 years.

In addition to building the billion-dollar megaproject, Brandywine Realty has committed to implementing a $5.6 million neighborhood engagement and investment program geared towards the surrounding West Philadelphia communities immediately impacted by the project.

“Schuylkill Yards will be an inclusive-growth development that will open doors and create opportunities for residents in all of our surrounding neighborhoods. Brandywine’s neighborhood engagement initiative is designed to support local and minority-owned businesses, employ local workers, provide job training, and preserve and add to the existing housing stock at all income levels,” said Fry.

The inclusionary program will focus on job creation, affordable housing, small business development, and revitalizing underused building stock and economically-depressed commercial corridors with capital investment.

Mayor Kenny expressed his excitement over the program and emphasized the importance of balancing redevelopment with inclusive neighborhood investment. “Building this project will expand the opportunities to many Philadelphians in need of jobs that pay families sustaining wages and provide them with the security of affordable, permanent housing,’ said Kenney. Brandywine worked with local community groups to find out how best they could address the most pressing issues through this project and they have a great blueprint in place to make a real difference.”

About the author

Michael Bixler is a writer, photographer, and managing editor of Hidden City Daily. He is a former arts and entertainment reporter with Mountain Xpress weekly in Asheville, North Carolina and a native of South Carolina. Bixler has a keen interest in adaptive reuse, underappreciated architecture, contemporary literature and art, and forward-thinking dialogue about people and place. Follow him on Instagram

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Trading Brake Pads For Ballet Slippers On South Broad Street

Trading Brake Pads For Ballet Slippers On South Broad Street

February 19, 2018  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow waltzes through the history of an old auto dealership in South Philly that has been a hub of classical dance training for over 30 years > more

Riding The Rails On Pennsylvania's Original Turnpike

Riding The Rails On Pennsylvania’s Original Turnpike

February 16, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

As Phase One of the Reading Viaduct Rail Park sets to open this spring, Harry K. takes us on a ride along the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, one of the earliest railroads in America > more

New Schuylkill River Trail Extension Now Open

New Schuylkill River Trail Extension Now Open

February 15, 2018  |  Buzz

Michael Bixler takes us on a stroll down the newest segment of the Schuylkill River Trail > more

Replicas Of William Rush Originals Return To Fairmount Water Works

Replicas Of William Rush Originals Return To Fairmount Water Works

February 14, 2018  |  News

Missing for decades, two signature sculptures come home to Fairmount Water Works. A. Leonard Pundt has the details on how conservation efforts and carefully-crafted reproductions brought the iconic public artwork back to life > more

Discovering My Family's Place In The Workshop Of The World

Discovering My Family’s Place In The Workshop Of The World

February 12, 2018  |  Vantage

In Port Richmond, Amy Cohen has a chance encounter with her family's industrial past when she happens upon a sign for her grandfather's old business, the Philadelphia Rust-Proof Company > more

Smiling In South Philly At The Eagles Super Bowl Parade

Smiling In South Philly At The Eagles Super Bowl Parade

February 8, 2018  |  Last Light

Michael Bixler dives into the crowd down in South Philly at the Eagles parade with this photo essay > more