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$3.5 billion Schuylkill Yards breaks ground on future park

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First up: A 1.3-acre park called Drexel Square

Schuylkill Yards has officially broken ground, starting with the public park Drexel Square.
Renderings by SHoP Architects and West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture

It’s really happening: Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust just broke ground on their ambitious $3.5 billion Schuylkill Yards project, about 18 months after they first announced their plans to transform 14 acres in University City into a leading innovation hub.

“At its core, Schuylkill Yards is centered around interaction, a place that encourages living, walking, collaboration, and fun,” said Brandywine Realty Trust’s CEO Jerry Sweeney. “What better way to embrace those ideas than by creating a park?”

The groundbreaking took place Wednesday morning at 3001 Market Street, which will be the site of the future 1.3-acre Drexel Square, an elliptical park designed by Shop Architects and West 8. The green space will replace what’s currently a parking lot across the street from 30th Street Station.

Sweeney described the park as a both a “launching pad” and “centerpiece” for the innovation-driven neighborhood.

Rendering by ShOP Architects and West 8

Drexel Square, Philly’s “the sixth square”

Along with a more than 12,000-square-foot elliptical green lawn, there will be custom-made granite benches, outdoor furniture, lighting, and raised planter beds filled with shrubs and perennials.

But perhaps the most striking feature will be the 30 soaring Dawn Redwood trees, which will be planted at more than 25 feet tall.

The park will open in fall 2018. In total, there are 6.5 acres of planned green space and street improvements throughout Schuylkill Yards.

What comes after the park?

Of course, the park just the start of Schuylkill Yards. The mega-development’s 15- to 20-year master plan calls for the buildout of new towers, totaling 6.9 million square feet in new construction. Currently, city approvals are in place for 1.3 million square feet of new development and the revamp of the Bulletin Building.

The first phase will include the buildout of the park, as well as 4.6 acres of residential, office, research, and retail development. Sweeney said that early next year, amid the park construction, the team will begin the revamp of the Bulletin Building and begin plans for the mixed-use towers.

A proposed rendering of 3003 JFK Boulevard, across the street from the revamped Bulletin Building.
The current view of the Bulletin Building looking toward the future 3003 JFK Boulevard.
Photo by Melissa Romero

The ceremonial construction start also happens to come just weeks after Philly submitted its proposal to bring Amazon’s second headquarters here. The city’s pitch included Schuylkill Yards as one of the three potential sites where the e-commerce giant could build its $5 billion headquarters.

“If we are lucky,” said Drexel University president John Fry, “Drexel Square may one day soon be a gathering spot for thousands and thousands of Amazon employees.”

Drexel University

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