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Work in Progress, continued

Photos by Greg Benson

The Inn at Penn
opens this month.

 

34th to 38th Street, North Side–Reclaiming Walnut Street, a Wharton building that looks both ways, restoration at the Law School and a possible new neighbor on Chestnut Street
   
Downtown University City. The September 1 official opening of the 238-room Inn at Penn marked the completion of Sansom Common, which has become emblematic of Penn’s push to revitalize University City. Besides the guest rooms, which boast an array of high-tech features (including Internet and PennNet access), the hotel includes a restaurant, the Ivy Grille, with an entrance on Walnut Street. Space in the hotel will also be occupied by the Faculty Club, which vacated its former location in Skinner Hall in August.
   
Constructed on the site of a former surface parking lot, the $120 million project also includes the Penn Bookstore and an assortment of retail operations. Those opened last summer and fall. The bookstore has become a new landmark on campus, and the plaza along 36th Street a popular gathering place for students, staff and visitors. More outdoor seating has been added on the other side of 36th Street, and a trellis constructed to conceal the loading dock for the Franklin Building Annex.
   
Sansom Common is also a big step toward "reclaiming" Walnut Street, which Penn effectively "turned its back on" in the 1960s. At the time, Hewryk says, officials were intent on creating a traditional campus core from what had been city streets. Projects like Van Pelt-Dietrich Library and the Annenberg School and Center look inward, with entrances that face Locust Walk.
   
The Annenberg School, though, is currently completing a $15 million renovation. While the main purpose is to carve out space in what was the school’s auditorium to house the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the project will also create a new entrance and courtyard on Walnut Street. The Center itself will overlook Walnut, from windows cut into the building’s previously blank façade.
   
At 37th Street, some new construction as well as renovations to Gimbel Gymnasium will create the Pottruck Health & Fitness Center, named for David S. Pottruck C’70 WG’72, who designated $10 million of a $12 million gift to fund the project. An architect is to be selected for the project this month, with construction scheduled to begin early next summer and finish by September 2001.
   
"We want to have Sansom as a destination place–the Penn campus’s downtown, where, instead of jumping in a taxi, and going [to Center City], they would stay here," says Hewryk. "With the bookstore and plaza and the hotel and now the Pottruck Center, we have this opportunity. There is a fantastic relationship between the recreational center and the hotel and the surrounding academic space."
   
Once Wharton’s new building is complete, "we’ll have 4,000 kids over there on a daily basis," says Hewryk. Also bringing new vitality to the corridor will be the conversion of Skinner Hall–which will be renamed Addams Hall–to studio space for the Graduate School of Fine Arts. Combine that with the presence of the Institute for Contemporary Art at 36th Street, and "We have a very interesting arrangement, almost like a little SoHo over here," Hewryk says, with a not-entirely joking laugh.
   
Site-sensitive, State-of-the-art. By 2002, on the block formerly occupied by the one-story structure that housed Penn’s bookstore and an assortment of restaurants and stores, will rise the $120 million, 320,000-square-foot Huntsman Hall, which will become the main educational space for Wharton’s graduate and undergraduate programs. The design, by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, uses materials that include red brick and stone to reflect neighboring campus buildings. In terms of mass and height, the building is designed to fit into its "two-sided" site. The side facing Locust Walk matches the more intimate scale of the traditional campus, while the tower on Walnut Street is in scale with a parking garage on the other side of Walnut at 38th and with the Inn at Penn and Bookstore at Sansom Common.
   
The facility has 48 classrooms and 57 group-study rooms equipped for multimedia, audio/videoconferencing, video production and editing, the ability to connect between group workstations and Internet access. There are also four teaching labs, two study lounges and–for those occasional non-studying moments–separate undergraduate and MBA cafes. Other spaces include a forum able to accommodate 500 people for special events, a 300-seat auditorium on the ground floor, and, on the top of the builing, a colloquium area able to accommodate 200 people and equipped to host meals. The top floor also includes a sky-lit hall with views of Penn’s campus and Center City. Funding is from donations, including $40 million from Jon M. Huntsman W’59 Hon’96.
   
Birthday Makeover. An $11 million renovation of the Law School’s Silverman Hall is under way, with completion timed to coincide with the historic building’s centennial in November 2000. (Formerly Lewis Hall, the building was renamed for Henry R. Silverman L’64, who gave $15 million to the school for the renovation and other purposes.) Along with extensive interior work on offices, classrooms and other spaces, the project will restore the building’s Great Hall and Grand Stair, including rehabilitation of the marble terrazzo and mosaic tile floors (covered by linoleum in a 1960s renovation); clean and repair the building façade and fencing and landscape the perimeter; and reopen the entrance on 34th Street, closed for more than a decade.
   
Another Parking Lot Lost? In June, the University proposed constructing a building combining restaurant and retail space, classrooms and housing for faculty and students making extended visits to campus at 34th and Chestnut, next to the Penn-owned Sheraton Hotel and across the street from the Law School. The University bid $8.2 million to purchase the site, currently a surface parking lot, from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. Penn’s bid was the only one, but still must be approved by the city before a purchase can go through. The University’s preliminary proposal envisioned a 250-room residential facility; a parking garage for 786 cars; 28,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and 120,000 square feet of classroom and research space–with a reported pricetag of $111 million

 

 

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