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Street Improvements and Closures Around Drexel’s University City Campus

3/8/2018 3:57:11 PM

Work is currently being done to create Drexel Square, the first development in the Schuylkill Yards project. Photo credit Jordan Stein.
Work is currently being done to create Drexel Square, the first development in the Schuylkill Yards project. Photo credit Jordan Stein.

Walking through — and around, and under — Drexel’s University City Campus, it’s hard to avoid all of the construction going on. Between the University’s initiatives, as explained in the Drexel Public Realm Plan, the Schuylkill Yards Project in conjunction with master developer Brandywine Realty Trust and the work being undertaken by Amtrak, SEPTA, PennDot and other organizations, there is a lot of activity. This work represents distinct but coordinated projects that collectively will transform the area in and around Drexel.

These projects include sidewalks, roads, lanes and even bridges that will be closed for periods of times over the next months, thereby impacting Drexel’s campus. 

“While we will incur a level of daily inconvenience from this work, these projects represent the current and future vitality of our neighborhood,” said Senior Vice President for Corporate Relations and Economic Development Keith Orris. “When finished, the projects will provide the infrastructure for decades of growth and advancement for Philadelphia and leverage the economic potential of the anchor institutions in University City.”

“Drexel is the beneficiary of our geography,” said Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations Brian Keech. “We’re in the heart of one of the busiest transportation hubs in the United States. The advantage is that, because of our location, we have a lot of people and companies coming to our campus that are interested in locating in this area. The disadvantage is that you have to live through temporary transportation improvement projects from time to time, but the long-term gain of these projects further enhances the public environment that Drexel occupies.”

DrexelNow has compiled a list of everything you need to know about what’s being done on, in and around Drexel’s campus ­— including what it’s accomplishing and, perhaps most importantly, when it’s expected to end. Feel free to also check out the construction and traffic advisories updated by University Facilities and Real Estate now and in the future.

30th and Market and Chestnut Streets

The construction on the stretch of Market Street leading west from the area surrounding 30th Street Station has work related to Schuylkill Yards, a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar project that will bring in entrepreneurial, educational, research, corporate, residential and retail facilities, as well as open public spaces. One block south, the lane closures in the area before the Chestnut Street Bridge are part of a PennDot project.

Chestnut Street Bridge Rehabilitations

The stretch of Chestnut Street from 34th Street to 22nd Street is currently being worked on as part of PennDot’s $100 million rehabilitation project on the roads and bridges surrounding the main Chestnut Street bridge over the Schuylkill River, including structures carrying Schuylkill Avenue over I-76 between Walnut Street and Chestnut Street, and between Chestnut Street and Market Street. The Schuylkill River Trail in this area will also be affected by these changes. Recently, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, which is supported by Drexel University (Orris and Keech are on the board), was awarded a TIGER grant for the Christian to Crescent Connection. This $12 million grant will go towards the final trail gap between Christian Street and the Grays Ferry Crescent.

On Chestnut Street, there will be streetscape enhancements of everything from new lights and traffic lights to the repaving of certain areas to moving the bike lane to the left side of Chestnut Street from 34th Street to 22nd Street. Plus, Chestnut Street Bridge will be completely closed to traffic for at least a year starting in January 2019.

All of the work to the bridges and streets is expected to take several years to complete, and there will be a lot of traffic detours, delays and closures on Chestnut Street for the next two years. Be sure to factor this in to your commute to campus — and consider using public transportation.

For more information on the project — and to sign up to receive updates on travel advisories — click here.

Drexel Square

In November 2017, Drexel and Brandywine Realty Trust, the master developer for Schuylkill Yards, broke ground on Drexel Square, the first development in the Schuylkill Yards project, with a projected completion date of fall 2018. While this public square is being constructed on the west side of 30th Street between Market Street and John F. Kennedy (JFK) Boulevard, the sidewalk will remain partially accessible to pedestrians along JFK Boulevard and 30th Street around the construction site — but use caution when traveling through the area.  

Also, the second floor of 3025 Market St. (the former One Drexel Plaza office building) is being remodeled for Spark Therapeutics, a key early Schuylkill Yards tenant, for a move-in next year. In early 2019, the building’s interior public areas and exterior facade will undergo renovations which will be undertaken by Brandywine. In addition, SEPTA plans to undertake extensive remodeling of the head house at the corner of 30th and Market streets. These projects are projected to be completed by late 2020.  

“The construction of Drexel Square and the remodeling of 3025 Market St. is a significant investment by Brandywine, our master developer, intended to create the gateway to Schuylkill Yards and Drexel’s campus,” said Orris. “We believe this strategy, along with Spark’s tenancy, will attract more companies wanting to be part of our new innovation community providing opportunities for research, co-operative education and institutional collaborations for Drexel.”

32nd and Market Street Intersection

In 2013, the University acquired the triangular-shaped parcel of property on the north side of Market Street between JFK Boulevard and 32nd Street that used to house the Firestone auto repair shop. Construction has started to reconfigure the intersections around the property. The site will be fenced off, a portion of N. 32nd Street will be closed to vehicle traffic and the sidewalk near the area will be closed between 32nd Street and JFK Boulevard along the north side of Market Street. In the near term, the project will contribute to traffic interruptions along Market Street (more information below), but when finished it will make the area safer and more pedestrian-friendly. Completion is expected in late summer of this year.

Market Street Bridge Rehabilitations

Unlike its southern counterpart, Market Street Bridge isn’t going to be completely shut down. But, a lot of traffic will be directed to Market Street with the closure of the Chestnut Street bridge. In addition to the current work on Market Street by Amtrak, SEPTA, Drexel and Brandywine, PennDot will also be rehabilitating the Market Street Bridge after the Chestnut Street Bridge rehabilitations are finished in 2020. When Market Street is under construction, traffic will still flow both ways but lane closures will tighten the flow of traffic. The work on Market Street is expected to conclude in 2023.

SEPTA’s Work on Market Street

Sandwiched between the work on the intersection of 32nd and Market and the construction on Drexel Square lies the construction site of SEPTA, which is working on the headhouses on Market Street at 31st Street. New headhouse structures will be first built at the SEPTA entrances under the rail bridge, including new elevators extending from the street to the mezzanine underneath as well as from mezzanine to the Market-Frankford Line. SEPTA has applied for a Federal TIGER grant to complete similar, but more extensive work at the 30th and Market street entrance as well as work at the underground portions of the station, including new lighting, finishes, elevators, stairwells and escalators. If SEPTA receives the grant, this work is expected to take approximately 24 months to complete.

JFK Boulevard Rehabilitations

For about a year, PennDot has been undertaking rehabilitation work on three structurally deficient bridges on JFK Boulevard over 21st, 22nd and 23rd streets. The ramp of JFK Boulevard over SEPTA’s own rehabilitation project in the area is expected to be worked on from 2021 to 2025.

30th Street Station Improvement Project

Amtrak is making great progress in its 30th Street Station District Plan Phase 1 Projects.

On the station itself, over half of the exterior masonry and window/door restoration work is finished. By late 2018, all work will be completed.

University City High School Site

The western side of Drexel’s University City Campus is also on the receiving end of some work. In 2014, the University and Wexford Science & Technology LLC, in a joint venture called Drexel University City Development, purchased a 14-acre site that formerly housed the University City High School, the Charles Drew Elementary School and The Walnut Center.

Now, that site is being developed by Wexford as part of uCity Square, with commercial buildings and public space in the core of the property, and a residential project in the top northwest corner between Powelton Avenue and Lancaster Avenue on 38th Street. On Drexel’s portion of the site, the goal is to build a school facility that can house together Powel Elementary and Science Leadership Academy Middle School. In 2016, Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLA-MS) opened with its first fifth-grade classes in temporary space in the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships and sixth-grade classrooms were added there in the fall of 2017.

But before that can happen, work is being done to improve the street grid and infrastructure in that area. 37th Street is being rebuilt to connect to Lancaster Avenue and Powelton Avenue, Cuthbert Street is being rebuilt on 38th Street between Powelton Avenue and Market Street, and Warren Street is being extended to 38th Street.