Has Penn just secured an anchor for Grays Ferry?

Rendering of South Bank

Just last week, the University of Pennsylvania (aka Penn, UPenn, U of P) released detailed plans for a large urban/commercial/educational project called South Bank.

This development is part of a larger vision for the university, known as Penn Connects 2.0. The main goal is to continue expanding their local and global presence, create more open space, and create more jobs for both students and Philadelphians alike.

In other words, Penn wants to make Philadelphia a more promising career choice location for its alumni. IMHO, the city could not ask for a better long-term partner than that.

So why did I choose that blog post title?

First and foremost, I always go back to the golden rule of real estate: Location, Location, Location. There is a reason that saying exists, and why it will most likely never go away. You can change what’s on the land, you can change the exterior of a home, you can change the interior of a home, and you can even change your landscaping, but you cannot change the location.

It’s the reason people move, find new jobs, raise families, choose school districts, and so on and so forth. Location controls prices, taxes, and public services. It can be the reason why some neighborhoods thrive, while others decline. It’s the base of any area’s long-term strategy.

Still looking for some more information on that blog post title?

Well, from a Philadelphia real estate agent’s perspective, you don’t have to look too much farther than Center City and/or University City to understand how important location is. There is a reason these two sections have done so well over the past 10+ years, and it’s not because they have the best cheesesteaks in town. In fact, CC and UC are probably the last places I would go to get a quality steak. I mean hey, I live in Roxborough where local competition creates some of the best quality steaks in the US.

Sorry, sorry; getting off topic a bit. Back to South Bank and Grays Ferry.

South Bank has some cool things going for it, which help make it a potential anchor for Grays Ferry. Now, let’s get to it:

1) South Bank is on the Center City/Grays Ferry side of the river: There is a reason Center City and University City are so distinct, they have a firm boundary line between them. And no boundary could be more firm than a river; in this case, the Schuylkill River. Although both sections have a great mix of jobs, schools, and retail/entertainment, CC is better known for business while UC is better known for education. Hence, two separate sections with two separate plans. Now that Penn has jumped the river, into South Philly and not into Center City mind you, it creates an opportunity. And no other South Philly neighborhood is closer to South Bank than Grays Ferry.

2) South Bank wants to become a breeding ground for new, innovative, and small businesses: Where there are start-ups, there are young professionals. Where there are young professionals, there are new businesses setting up shop. Where there are new businesses setting up shop, there is a demand for housing. Where there is a demand for housing, prices go up. When prices go up, people are happy. I don’t know how many more connections I can make here, but I’m sure you’re following along. This is how local economies are built, and it could have a significant impact on Grays Ferry.

3) Grays Ferry is reasonably priced for its location: There’s your tip of the week. It happened in Graduate Hospital, and it’s happening in Point Breeze. Grays Ferry may have been a longer stretch without any firm support from UC, but it looks like they may get it if South Bank delivers on its promises. GF already has the following positive attributes: close to jobs, close to highways, close to public transportation, and close to recreation (the Grays Ferry Crescent was a nice addition in 2012). Couple all of that with reasonably priced homes, compared to neighbors in Center City, Graduate Hospital, and Northern Point Breeze, and you have a recipe for potential.

Some may look at a project like this and think it’s just the same old thing. “Penn’s getting bigger, so what? They’ve already been doing that for years.” Well, I’m here to tell you that there may be bigger potential just by looking at a map.

As both a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor (there is a difference between the two), there are guidelines and ethics we live by to help make sure we do not “persuade” and/or “convince” clients that one area is better than another area using our market knowledge. That real estate tactic is commonly referred to as “steering,” which is both illegal and unethical. One of my main goals when starting this blog was to help educate the public on what’s going on in/around Philadelphia, the city I call home.

When I look back at the over 200+ blog posts I’ve written since Philly Urban Living’s inception, back in 2011, I can see that my original goal is still going strong today.

I have all of you regular readers to thank for that.

Cira Centre South is finally taking shape with FMC Tower

Cira Centre South – 2016

If it was said that I haven’t wrote enough about University City over the past few years, it would be an understatement.

Well, here is some more cool news for UCity.

After much hype and debate over the last few years, coupled with a slowdown in high-rise commercial development across the city, Brandywine is now set to break ground on FMC Tower (aka FMC Tower at Cire Centre South). This will be the end cap to the Cira Centre development in University City, Philadelphia.

Here are the details:

– 650 feet tall, or 47 stories tall
– Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli (who also designed UCity’s Cira Centre, next to 30th Street Station)
– Almost 1,000,000 sq ft of usable space (with over 60% already pre-leased to FMC & UPenn)
– FMC will have a skybridge connected to Cira Green (a new, 1-acre park on top of a parking garage)

All I can say is, awesome!

Not only for the fact that another cool, architecturally pleasing building will join the likes of Cira Centre and the upcoming Evo at Cira Centre South (formerly known as The Grove), but because another large company is putting their Global HQ in Philadelphia, while joining the likes of UPenn (Philadelphia’s largest, private employer). This type of development further justifies UCity’s place as Philadelphia’s 2nd leading center for jobs/entertainment.

All good stuff.

A few other things that make this project cool, IMHO:

– It’s Mixed-Use: FMC Tower will house FMC, UPenn, and rental housing; 3 different uses (commercial, educational, and residential), 1 building. These tenants will all be on top of the future tenants taking space in the building.

– It’s Green: FMC Tower is shooting for LEED Silver Certification, with the plan of adding a 1-acre park on top of a parking garage. This will help with stormwater management, as well as provide a new park for Philadelphians to enjoy. Also, the views will be nothing short of spectacular.

– It’s Smart: The design is great, it’s right next to 30th Street Station, it still has the option to comfortably park your car (for both travelers and suburbanites alike), and it’s building on UCity’s current momentum as a global city-within-a-city.

For further reading, check out these other helpful links:

All The Renderings: Cira Centre South’s Final Tower

650 Foot Tall Monster Building Coming to West Philly

Many More Details About the Skyscraping FMC Tower

Cira Centre South plans for “The Grove”

Rendering of the 33-Story housing complex

Well, it looks like Cira Centre South is finally about to break ground on 1 of the 2 proposed buildings for land right next to 30th Street Station.

The Grove at Cira Centre South is a joint partnership between Brandywine Realty and Campus Crest Communities, and will be built on the premise that UPenn will fill it with student housing.

What a great deal for all involved!

Brandywine can finally get this project moving (with the hopes of starting another building, per the original plan), Campus Crest will get an opportunity to cash in on the Philadelphia student housing market, and the University of Pennsylvania gets a top-notch housing complex that it can market to both prospective and existing students.

This is also great news for Philadelphia.

More construction equals more jobs, and more money spent in the immediate area while it’s being built, as well as when it has been completed. It also helps bridge the natural divide (aka The Schuylkill River) by continuing UPenn’s eastern expansion plans.

The cherry-on-top is that this project supports TOD, and will be located next to the 3rd busiest rail transit hub in the US (30th Street Station).