Editor’s note: This article was originally published in August 2017 and has since been updated with the most recent information.
There’s a lot of talk about Philly’s growing skyline these days. Numerous cranes already dot the sky, and countless corners of the city have been transformed into construction sites.
But as research shows, Philly’s skyline still has a long way to go compared to other major U.S. cities, like Chicago and New York. And developers are definitely noticing: There is approximately 8 million square feet of new construction set to change Philly’s skyline in 2018 alone.
What’s more, there are numerous projects in the works that are valued at $1 billion or more each. Many of what we’d call megaprojects will take years to complete, but some of them are set to debut as early as 2018.
Here’s a look at some of the transformative developments that cost at least $1 billion. These big-time projects will not only reshape the areas they’re being built in, but will also make a noticeable impact on the city’s skyline.
Comcast Technology Center, $1.5 billion
On the rise since breaking ground in 2014, the Liberty Property Trust-developed Comcast Technology Center is set to be the shot in the arm for Philadelphia. Standing at 1,121 feet, the Foster+Partners designed tower will not only be Philly’s first supertall building, but also the tallest tower in the state of Pennsylvania and outside of New York City and Chicago. (Its sister tower, the 973-foot-tall Comcast Center that was built in 2008, will be dethroned and become the second tallest in the city.)
The 60-story Comcast Technology Center recently topped off and is expected to open in 2018. When it does, it will be the home of Comcast’s tech gurus, as well as the company’s own CEO, who bought the only three condos available in the building on the 45th floor.
Meanwhile, the upper levels of the tower will feature a Four Seasons Hotel, which will be the most highly situated hotel in the entire country. It’s a return for Four Seasons to Philadelphia; the hotel was originally located on Logan Square, and has since been replaced by the Logan Hotel.
The city of Philadelphia and really the entire region is expecting a lot when Comcast Technology Center opens. It’s expected to bring in 4,000 new jobs, and on top of being the world-class, innovative headquarters for Comcast employees, it will also be a tourist attraction for the city, with multiple areas and restaurants open to the public.
30th Street Station District, $6.5 billion
The City of Philadelphia and a host of developers, designers, and transportation heads have embarked on an ambitious 35-year plan to create 18 million square feet of new development—including a new neighborhood and 40 acres of green space—all within University City.
Amtrak and its long list of consultants have hosted numerous public open houses over the years, gathering community input and feedback on its plans for the 30th Street Station District. In 2016, it released the final master plan, based on months of feedback.
Adjacent to the proposed Schuylkill Yards (more on that below), the 30th Street Station District has an incredibly long list of projects it plans to undertake, everything from improving traffic and pedestrian safety around 30th Street Station to creating more public space around it to creating an entire neighborhood over the rail yards.
Most recently, Amtrak halted its search for a master developer amid the Amazon HQ2 search frenzy, with the idea that the site might be a contender for the e-commerce giant’s new headquarters. The search is expected to pick up again in early 2018. Here’s the full 35-year timeline to help wrap your around the massive undertaking.
Schuylkill Yards, $3.5 billion
The elaborate press conference alone announcing Schuylkill Yards in March 2016 was just the beginning of what’s in store for the Drexel University-Brandywine Realty Trust venture. The $3.5 billion development is set to transform 14 acres in University City into a leading innovation hub of the region, with eight high-rises, totaling 6.9 million square feet. It’s also one of the three contenders pitched as a spot for Amazon HQ2 to set up shop.
The groundbreaking of the 1.3-acre elliptical park called Drexel Square kicked the project off in November. The public space is being built first as a sign of goodwill to the community. Brandywine Realty Trust is also announced its $5 million Neighborhood Engagement Initiative, which will address and fund five specific areas that neighbors of the future project have highlighted in past community meetings, from job growth to affordable housing to educational support.
Drexel and Brandywine say that the entirety of Schuylkill Yards to expected to take 20 years, so this is a project Philly will be watching for a long, long time.
uCity Square, $1 billion
With the January 2017 groundbreaking of its first tower, 3675 Market, uCity Square is also positioning itself as becoming an innovation-driven district, similar to Schuylkill Yards. It was also considered a prime spot for Amazon HQ2 in Philly’s official bid.
In total, it’s a 6,000,000-square-foot project. uCity Square has 2.5 million square feet of existing property, with another 350,000 square feet under construction. Yet another 3.65 million square feet is still in the pre-development stages.
Within that 6 million-square-foot district will be two public spaces and the build-out of new roads that will better connect the development with the surrounding neighborhoods, such as Powelton Village. But given that the completion of uCity Square is way down the road, it has allowed University City District to build a temporary meadow on its construction site.
The project is being developed by the University City Science Center and Wexford Science + Technology, which specializes in working with institutions to develop what it calls “Knowledge Communities.”
Liberty on the River, $1.2 billion
This major multi-phase project has been in the works for some time by developer K4 LLC and architect Barton Partners. It covers 17 acres—almost all of the land between Washington Avenue and Reed Street—and will bring 10 residential high-rises totaling 2,000 units, 100 townhouses, and one 22-story hotel to the expansive site on the Delaware River near Pennsport.
But the project has hit numerous speed bumps along the way. Most recently, a bill that would have allowed taller buildings to be constructed on the Delaware River waterfront has been delayed, with the developer planning to work with the neighborhood residents over the summer on the zoning bill and project’s future.
Meanwhile, the project has applied for $44 million total in RACP state grants for the project. It remains to be seen if the state will grant its big ask.
Penn Medicine Pavilion, $1.5 billion
The University of Pennsylvania Hospital’s $1.5 billion project Penn Medicine Pavilion is the largest capital project in Penn’s history. It’s also arguably one of the most ambitious and interesting healthcare projects in the city right now.
The Foster+Partners-designed, 1.5-million-square-foot building will stand 16 stories tall on the site of the former Penn Tower and be home to 500 new patient rooms and 47 operating rooms. Its summer concrete pour was the largest in the history of Philadelphia.
Navy Yard, $1 billion+
Philadelphia’s historic Navy Yard has been booming with new development for years now, with more than $1 billion in both public and private investment. It all started when Urban Outfitters bought a property here for $1 and turned it into their massive headquarters. Today, the Navy Yard is home to 1,200 acres, housing some 150 companies and is drawing big-name designers like Bjarke Ingels and Field Operations to its projects.
And it’s not over yet. The Navy Yard one of the three Amazon HQ2 contenders pitched by Philly in the city’s official bid. Plus, the campus, largely developed by Liberty Property Trust, has long-term plans for more mixed-use developments that could mean that one day people will actually be able to live on campus. It has applied for a $5 million state grant for a mixed-use rehabilitation project that includes 36,000-square-feet of retail and commercial space and residential units.
Smaller, though still major developments
Philly’s development boom isn’t just about megaprojects that are shelling out billions of dollars. There are other smaller, but still significant developments in the works that will transform neighborhoods and the city itself. Some, like the major mixed-use project East Market, are already well underway, while others, like the Penn’s Landing capping, are still in the very beginning stages. The following projects represent developments that are worth $200 million or more.
East Market, $600 million+
East Market, a 4-acre mixed-use development that will span an entire block between Market and Chestnut streets, is very much still under construction since its 2014 groundbreaking. But when all is said and done, the multi-phase project led by National Real Estate Development will bring 562 residential units between two towers and major retailers like Wawa, City Fitness, Iron Hill Brewery, Mom’s Organic Market, and the Design Center to the Market East corridor.
Fashion District of Philadelphia, $365 million
Across the street from the East Market development will be the future Fashion District of Philadelphia, setting up shop in the former Gallery Mall. First pitched as the Fashion Outlets, the project underwent a rebranding and now plans to bring a new kind of shopping experience to the old mall on Market, with fancy movie theater, high-end retail, and a food hall.
Already well under construction, Shoemaker and Skanska have been renovating about 1,400,000 square feet of both interior and exterior space, making it the largest retail repositioning project in the region. When construction finishes in November 2018, the PREIT-developed project will span three city blocks.
Penn’s Landing, $225 million
When construction on the I-95 highway began in 1959, its intention was to serve as a connector between the suburbs and downtown Philadelphia and link the city’s riverfront on the Delaware with the airport. While it serves as a major mode of transportation, it has also cut off the riverfront from the rest of the city.
The city plans to change the damage of I-95 by capping four acres of it and building an eight-acre park at Penn’s Landing. Also in store: 1,500 new housing units, 500 hotel rooms, and more than 100,000-square-feet of retail, restaurants, and entertainment. Total funding has been committed for the project, which is expected to finish construction in 2021.
SLS Philadelphia Hotel & Residences, $240 million
It’s been four years since developer Carl Dranoff announced his plans to build the 45-story SLS Philadelphia hotel and condo building right on Broad Street. While the wrecking ball has since razed the former Philadelphia International Records building, the site remains vacant as the project awaits the $19 million it applied for through the state’s RACP program.
The project calls for 90 condominium residences, 152 hotel rooms, and 4,600 square feet of ground floor retail space. When completed, the tower will be the tallest ground-up residential building in Pennsylvania.
If and when that money comes through, Dranoff, who most recently debuted the luxury condo high-rise One Riverside on the Schuylkill, will have sufficient funding to begin work on the project.
W Hotel and Element by Westin, $359 million
Developer Chestlen Development is bringing two hotels to the corner site at 15th and Chestnut: A 295-room W Philadelphia and a 460-room Element Philadelphia Hotel. Clocking in a 51 stories, the tower broke ground in 2015 and at the time had one of the largest concrete pours in Philly’s history. It’s expected to open in spring 2018 and totals 770,607 square feet.
River Walk, $300 million
One of the last remaining undeveloped lots on the Schuykill is expected to become home to two glassy, skinny towers designed by Gensler and developed by PMC Property Group. The proposal calls for two residential towers: A 32- and 28-story, totaling 600 total units.
Most recently, the project cleared its latest hurdles: Extending a zoning permit that allows the developer to build the project by-right and clearing the Civic Design Review, though not without concerns. The development is expected to break ground this year, though it is not clear if it will be a multi-phase project.
Aramark Headquarters, $230 million
Along with River Walk, PMC Property and Gensler are also make up the developer-design team behind Aramark’s big move to 2400 Market Street. Aramark’s announcement that it was staying put in September 2016 made big waves after rumors swirled that the big-time food service company was planning to move its headquarters out of Philadelphia.
With construction well underway, the plan calls to transform the existing structure into a a modern, 600,000-square-foot, nine-story building. Aramark, the anchor tenant, will occupy the top five floors and 300,000 square feet of space, while Fitler Club, a membership-only lifestyle club, will set up shop on the lower levels. In keeping with the company’s green goals, the plan calls for 8,000 square feet of outdoor terraces that will look over the Schuylkill River.
1911 Walnut, $300 million
After years of tweaks and community meetings, one of the last-remaining vacant lots in Rittenhouse Square is going to be developed and transformed into 1911 Walnut. Developed by Southern Land Company and designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architecture, 1911 Walnut will be 47 or 48 stories tall with both rentals and condos, some of which will include mixed-income housing. Preliminary construction work began with demolition of the Oliver H. Bair Funeral Home garage this year, but an official groundbreaking isn’t expected until 2019.
1001 S. Broad Street
Although the total project cost has not been divulged, Bart Blatstein’s massive mixed-use project planned for South Broad and Washington Avenue will undoubtedly bring big changes to the corridor whenever it breaks ground. Long a vacant eyesore, the 195,000-square-foot site was recently acquired by the developer for $20 million. He plans to build a 34-story tower with some 1,000 residential units, office space, and 160,000-square-feet of retail in what Blatstein has referred to as a “shopping village.”
This project hasn’t come without its hurdles: Blatstein only recently bought the site, months after he had begun the design and zoning processes with the city. And neighbors have expressed concern about the scope and size of the project compared to the rest of the neighborhood. Blatstein, who has said, “I believe in this project 100 percent,” has not revealed a groundbreaking date yet.
- Philly’s high-rises currently under construction, mapped
- Mapping major University City projects in the works
- Center City’s new residential developments, mapped
- Mapping 15 hotel projects in Philadelphia to watch
- Philly’s skyline has room to grow compared to rest of U.S., report fin