How much retail is actually owned by Penn?

Dear Benny:
I really appreciate the varied shopping and eating options I can find near my office, and I am wondering just how much of the retail on and around campus is actually owned by Penn? Also, how does the University decide what sort of retail mix it wants to have?
—Free For Lunch 

Dear Free: 
The quick answer to your question is that there is nearly 334,000 square feet of University retail space on and around campus. The rough footprint of Penn retail reaches from 33rd to 40th Streets between Spruce and Chestnut streets, encompassing Walnut, Sansom, and Chestnut streets.

Not all the retail space within these boundaries is Penn-affiliated, but the area does include plenty of offerings for consumers, such as dining establishments, several clothing shops, bookstores, hair salons, convenience stores, pubs, and other offerings.  

The more detailed answer is that all this retail space falls into several different categories when it comes to who owns the land, who owns the structures, and who runs the retail. Without getting into too much confusing detail, the establishments break down like this: There are sites that are Penn-owned and run by the University’s Division of Facilities and Real Estate Services (FRES), there are sites that are Penn-owned and run by the University’s Business Services Division, and there are sites where the land is owned by Penn but the retail has been developed and is run by a third party. 

About 11 years ago, the University established a master retail plan. Currently, FRES is in the process of updating it. Over the next couple of months, the division will be looking for input about possible retail offerings from the campus and University City community through both an online survey and focus group meetings. The comments FRES receives will help the University determine what sort of future retail should be offered.

Originally published on December 13, 2012