Drexel, Brandywine Realty Trust Partner on Philadelphia’s $3.5B Schuylkill Yards Development

PHILADELPHIA — Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust (NYSE: BDN) will co-develop the Schuylkill Yards mixed-use community on a 14-acre site in Philadelphia. The development costs weren’t disclosed, but the Philadelphia Business Journal estimates total costs will reach $3.5 billion.

Initial phases of the projected 20-year innovation development plan will consist of 5 million square feet of mixed-use real estate on a 10-acre site next to Drexel’s main campus and adjacent to Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. The master-planned neighborhood within Philadelphia’s University City submarket will feature entrepreneurial spaces, educational facilities and research laboratories, corporate offices, residential and retail spaces, hospitality, cultural venues and public open spaces.

“Drexel University and Brandywine’s shared vision for the continued renaissance of University City provides a strong foundation for a long-term partnership. Together, we will create a dynamic and world-class innovation hub to attract the brightest minds to our region,” says Gerard Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine Realty Trust.

“Schuylkill Yards will transform Philadelphia’s skyline as new towers rise on the west side of the Schuylkill River,” he continues. “Brandywine’s existing Cira Centre, EVO and FMC Tower at Cira Centre South projects in University City will provide a synergistic connection to Schuylkill Yards, creating an access point to Center City and strengthening the eastern edge of University City as a whole.”

University City has one of the highest concentrations of higher education and medical institutions in the nation, including the University of Pennsylvania — an Ivy League institution — and its hospitals, University of the Sciences, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University City Science Center and the Wistar Institute.

As master developer, Brandywine will oversee the development team that includes residential developer Gotham Organization Inc. and life sciences developer Longfellow Real Estate Partners. Schuylkill Yards will be the first project in Philadelphia for both firms.

Brandywine and Drexel University jointly selected the design team consisting of SHoP Architects and West 8. SHoP Architects will handle the district planning and development of the architectural standards, and West 8 will be responsible for creating the public realm and development of the landscape standards.

When completed over the course of 20 years, Schuylkill Yards is expected to feature repurposed buildings, new towers and a network of public spaces. Phase I of the project will begin with the creation of Drexel Square, a 1.3-acre park at 30th and Market streets, directly across from Amtrak’s 30th Street Station. The historic former Bulletin Building will also be reimagined by transforming the east facade with inside/out viewports and a front screen.

Schuylkill Yards will create thousands of jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, according to Drexel and Brandywine. Additionally, Schuylkill Yards is designated as part of a Keystone Opportunity Zone, providing future businesses and residents with tax benefits.

“Schuylkill Yards is a big step forward in University City’s transition to a next-generation business district. It will provide our region’s current and future innovators with a central hub for collaboration and signal to the world that Philadelphia is ready for business in the 21st century’s new economy,” says Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Drexel University conducted a national search advised by JLL, which resulted in the selection of Brandywine Realty Trust, based in Philadelphia, as the master developer for the site.

“Drexel has always believed there’s a superior use for this unique location. We’re looking forward to a generation of partnership with Brandywine Realty Trust,” says John Fry, president of Drexel University. “We selected [Brandywine] as master developer because of its nationally recognized expertise and financial capacity, and also its deep understanding of the project’s potential impact on Philadelphia. Schuylkill Yards is more than a large-scale development project; it will be the heart of America’s next great urban innovation district.”

Founded in 1891 in Philadelphia, Drexel University is a comprehensive research university with more than 26,000 students. The private university offers roughly 200 degreed programs and is known for its co-operative education model that brings together Drexel students with global employers such as Amazon, Boeing, Google and NBC Universal.

Brandywine Realty Trust owns, develops, leases and manages office and mixed-use developments in the Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Austin markets. As of Dec. 31, 2015, the REIT’s portfolio comprised 232 properties and 28.9 million square feet.

Brandywine’s stock price closed on Wednesday, March 2 at $12.99 per share, down from $15.82 per share at this time last year.

— John Nelson

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