Wherever you turn it seems there’s a new construction project rising from the dust or a just-minted building showing off its glass and gleam. To the north, the colossus that will be Domus is transforming a drab surface parking lot into a locus of industry and anticipation. The elegant new McNeil Center for Early American Studies takes its place on Hill Field, while the revamped Fisher-Bennett Hall welcomes students to classrooms flooded with light and wired with the latest technology. World-class design has come to campus, too, with the soon-to-open Skirkanich Hall, and as the Engineering Department expands into its new digs over the summer, Hill Pavilion, the Vet School’s new facility, will greet its first visitors. With the University set to acquire the 24-acre Postal Lands site next year, the cranes look to be with us for a while. Here we give you a rundown of current campus projects, some on the drawing board, some in construction, some at the ribbon cutting stage on this ever-changing campus of ours.
What it is: Domus will become an eight-story luxury apartment complex with 290 apartments and 23,000 square feet of commercial space. Amenities will include a heated outdoor pool, a private screening room, a WiFi Internet café and a 24-hour concierge. The apartments will also boast 10-foot ceilings, gourmet kitchens and walk-in closets. A lineup of as yet unnamed retail stores will be included on the street level. With the project due to be completed in fall 2007 the major milestone this year has been the announcement of Dennis Oppenheim as the artist who will be creating and installing a significant public art installation as part of Philadelphia’s One Percent for Art program. (See “Art in the open,” page 1.)
Completion: Fall 2007
Major Player: The Hanover Company, a Houston-based developer will lease the land from Penn for 65 years.
McNeil Center for Early American Studies
What it is: Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies celebrated its first permanent home, on Woodland Walk, last fall. With a focus on the histories and cultures of North America before 1850, the Center promotes the scholarly use of the Philadelphia area’s unparalleled research collections and operates as a consortium of 16 mid-Atlantic colleges, universities, libraries, museums and historical societies, including the American Philosophical Association, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. It also offers pre- and post-doctoral fellowships, a seminar series and national symposia on specialized topics. In cooperation with Penn Press, the McNeil Center also publishes a book series and Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal.
Completion: Fall 2005
Major Player: Robert A.M. Stern Architects
What it is: The renovation of Fisher-Bennett Hall brought many improvements, including new rehearsal and teaching spaces for the Music Department and a permanent home and screening rooms for the new Cinema Studies program. Architecturally significant details, such as the skylight that fills the grand staircase with light, were restored, and forgotten or underutilized areas on the fourth floor were transformed into new classrooms. Other improvements included soundproofing, modernized air and heating systems and technology-equipped classrooms.
Completion: January 2006
What it is: The postal properties include 24 acres extending from Market Street on the north to Penn’s Bower Field on the south. They encompass the main U.S. Postal Building on Market Street, the Postal Annex site located between Chestnut Street and Walnut Street, the Vehicle Maintenance Facility Garage along Chestnut Street and the 14 acres of surface parking south of Walnut Street. Aquisition of the Postal Lands, which will become official in 2007, will allow the University to create new connections between the campus and the city and provide additional space for research, teaching, housing and retail. (See “Looking East,” page 1.)
Major Player: Sasaki Associates has been hired to complete a master plan.
Carolyn Hoff Lynch Biology Laboratory
What it is: This project involved the design and construction of facilities for expansion of the Biology Department and relocation of the Psychology Department. As well as adding technologically advanced facilities, the Lynch Biology Laboratory is designed to allow for interdisciplinary collaboration, with flexible research modules that can be reconfigured to accommodate emerging research priorities. The cost also includes planning for Phase II of the Life Sciences building.
Completion: May 2006 for phase one of two.
Major Player: Ellenzweig Associates, Inc.
What it is: This project involved the demolition of Pender Laboratories to create space for the Bioengineering Department. This new state-of-
the-art bioengineering facility will include classrooms, offices and wet lab space. Skirkanich Hall will also improve circulation through the School and create a grand entrance from 33rd Street. The architects, husband and wife team Tod Williams/Billie Tsien of New York, are known for bringing natural light into their buildings. For their design of New York’s American Folk Art Museum they won the Arup World Architecture Award for “best new building in the world.” (See, “A high-tech home,” page 1.)
Completion: June; official opening fall 2006
Major Player: Tod Williams/Billie Tsien & Associates
Annenberg Public Policy Center
What it is: This project involves the demolition of the former Hillel building off 36th and Walnut to make way for the construction of 40,000 square feet of new space for Annenberg Public Policy Center administration, forum, offices and research space.
Major Player: Maki and Associates
The Hub (40th and Chestnut)
What it is: This 10-story mixed-use building with apartments and retail is part of the ongoing development of 40th Street as a hub of activity. The project also aims to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to live closer to campus in high quality, professionally managed, safe and secure properties.
Completion: Fall 2006
Major Player: Teres Holdings LCC
What it is: A plan is underway to redevelop the center portion of the 3900 block of Walnut Street. The affected retailers—including College Pizza and Last Word Bookstore—are being relocated on or near 40th Street. The property will house a mixture of uses with approximately 30,000 square feet of new retail spaces on the street level and several stories of apartments above. The units will be designed and priced for students.
Completion: Demolition set for this winter.
Major Player: Tentatively, Erdy McHenry Architects and developer First Worthing
What it is: The Vet School’s first new building in 25 years, the four-story Vernon and Shirley Hill Pavilion is being erected adjacent to the veterinary school on a lot bounded by Baltimore, Woodland and University Avenues. It will contain two floors of teaching and library space, and two floors of research laboratories.
Completion: Sept. 2006
Major Player: Balinger Architects
Condos at 4200 Pine
What it is: This former mansion—and former home of Penn Press and Creative Communications—is being developed into 33 high-quality condos, providing new homeownership opportunities in University City and inside the Penn-Alexander catchment area. The intention of selling this Horace Trumbauer-designed gem was twofold: to relocate Penn administrative offices back onto campus and to support the community by increasing opportunities for homeownership. The condos, which start at $269,000 for a one-bedroom, feature hardwood floors in the main living areas, kitchens with granite countertops and ceramic tiles and central air. Reserved parking spaces are also available on the property.
Major Player: Campus Apartments and architectural firm QB3
Originally published on May 11, 2006