The University of Pennsylvania received a $50 million gift from Roy and Diana Vagelos. The gift was given to Penn Arts & Sciences for the erection of a mid-rise building at 32nd at Walnut St. The new building will host the Vagelos Institute for Energy Science and Technology and the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER).
We are big fans of this project as it will add energy and street presence to a series of blocks between 33rd St. and the Schuylkill River that often feel like a dead zone even though they have a lot of foot traffic. There are multiple blank walls, set-back offices, drive aisles, parking lots, and vacant parcels that dominate this stretch. The Walnut Street Cafe, FMC Building, and the retail spaces at the Left Bank Building have injected a ton of life into the corridor over the last few years, but an additional building is definitely welcomed.
We think the rendering for the project looks sharp. Although, we cannot really see how the building will interact with the street and pedestrians walking by, we hope that the architects created a welcoming entrance to the building. The glass facade looks sleek and will contrast nicely with the stately brick Palestra, which the project will back up to.
The building will be constructed on a plot that currently holds a surface parking lot. The surface parking lot is actually sunken below the elevation of Walnut Street. We are definitely happy to see this auto-oriented use go. In our opinion, a research facility is a better use for this prime location than the storage of cars.
We look forward to more students and researchers frequenting these blocks when the project is completed. We have not heard of any ground breaking date and do not see that any permits have been pulled to date. However, Penn has a long history of completing construction projects and they now have $50 million to work with.
UPDATE 12/9/20: This building has been redesigned and the floor count has been increased from six to seven stories due to an additional $20 million gift. There will also be a landscaped courtyard behind the building. The architect for the project is Behnisch Architekten.
What do you think about the design of this project?
Kyle is a commercial real estate agent at Rittenhouse Realty Advisors, a homeowner, and a real estate investor in Philadelphia. Kyle uses his extensive Philadelphia real estate market knowledge to help his clients buy and sell multifamily investment properties, development opportunities, and industrial sites.
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