Ask Benny: When will we get a Target or Walmart?

Dear Benny,
With all the recent retail development at Penn, how come there’s no Walmart or Target on the campus? Any chance we’ll get one soon?

—Frustrated Shopper

Dear Superstore Fan,
We took your question to Lisa Prasad, associate vice president of business administration at Penn’s division of Facilities and Real Estate Services. Here’s what she told us: “Successful retail development marries the needs and purchasing power of a community with the growth plans of a potential tenant. Penn retail decisions are set in an urban economy to meet the needs of the Penn community of faculty, students and staff, as well as the 50,000 households in the surrounding residential community.”

The reason Target and Walmart don’t fit with those needs, she says, is that they are “typically 100,000 square feet, including acres of surface parking lots.”

These big box stores are not usually found in urban environments, Prasad told us, “because it is difficult to find or assemble urban real estate of that size.”

The University’s largest retail operation is the Fresh Grocer—at 32,000 square feet.

Dear Benny,
I heard a rumor that the food court at 3401 Walnut Street, a lunchtime favorite for so many on campus, is closing to make way for a CVS. Tell me it ain’t so!

—Shocked and Dismayed

Dear Foodie,
The folks at Real Estate Services assure us the food court is not closing, though there is a possibility that it will have new tenants, and perhaps some convenience services like a pharmacy. The department is working through the real estate strategy now. We’ll keep you posted.

Got a question for Benny? You can ask Benny about benefits, worklife issues, University history or trivia, or other matters pertaining to life at Penn. Send it via e-mail to or via regular mail to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106. A Current coffee mug goes to those whose questions we publish.

Originally published on November 18, 2004