Implementation of the Lower Schuylkill Master Plan continues to change the landscape of Philadelphia. The Pennovation Center, a 58,000 square foot business incubator and laboratory, set to open this August is well underway at the northern edge of the master plan’s Innovation District. The University of Pennsylvania has been working to attract tenants to the space and have just announced their first corporate sponsor, Hershey Co. The company will locate its Advanced Technologies & Foresights Lab on the second floor of the building. There Hershey Co. plans to leverage the innovative environment created by university researchers and technology start-ups in order to explore prototypes that fall outside its traditional focus. Operating the space is co-working leader, Benjamin’s Desk and other tenants include Qualcomm Research Philadelphia, Exyn Technologies, and Novapeutics. Just announced two new companies are locating at the Pennovation Center, XEED and Fever Smart, both started by graduates of Penn’s Class of 2016 and winners of Dr. Gutmann’s President’s Innovation Prize.
The Pennovation Center anchors the larger Pennovation Works project which promotes the commercialization of research discoveries to create economic growth in Philadelphia. Small start-ups benefit from the materials sharing, short-term leases, basic laboratory space and professional training offered at the Pennovation Center, while having the opportunity to move to larger, customizable laboratories as they grow.
Directly across the street from Pennovation works, PIDC recently announced bids for a one million dollar streetscape project at 34th and Grays Ferry, the eastern gateway to this innovation district. The project will add landscaping, signage and lighting to this strategic intersection, while improving traffic and pedestrian access to University City.
The development of the Innovation District has been a catalyst for greater investment in open space trails connecting Southwest Philadelphia to Center City and South Philly. PIDC, the City and its partners are reclaiming industrial waterfronts, converting publicly owned land to green space, and integrating roads, trails and infrastructure to spur development and investment in the Lower Schuylkill. The Bartram’s Mile trail, one mile of currently vacant river frontage on the west bank of the Schuylkill will be opened to the public later this year. This trail provides riverfront access and recreational areas to an underserved community in the Kingsessing neighborhood of the city. Furthermore, it connects the Schuylkill River trail to Bartram’s Garden, the oldest surviving botanical garden in the United States. The garden has recently undergone renovation to its farmhouse and its front entrance to prepare for new visitors.
Adopted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission in May 2013, the Lower Schuylkill Master Plan is a framework to guide public & private investment and development in a 3,700-acre industrial district situated between University City to the north and The Navy Yard and Philadelphia International Airport to the South. When fully implemented, the plan calls for the creation of nearly 50 acres of new green space, 5 miles of public trails, more than 5 million square feet of modern industrial space, and 6,500 jobs. Since the plan’s adoption, more than 40 acres of contaminated sites have been cleaned up and nearly $90 million from public & private sources has been invested in the Innovation District.