The Summit Opens as Crown Jewel in Drexel’s Third-Party Investment Plan

Nearly two years after ground was broken at the corner of 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue, students are now comfortably living inside Drexel’s newest and tallest residential housing complex, the Summit at University City.

Developed by American Campus Communities (ACC) and standing at 25 floors and 600,000 square feet with room for retail, Jim Tucker, senior advisor to Drexel President John A. Fry, is awed by the new space.

“The sheer size of the project is so impressive,” Tucker said. “It’s the largest building on Drexel’s campus and the largest in ACC’s entire portfolio.”

Tucker recently transitioned out of his role as senior vice president of Administrative and Business Services because he’ll be retiring at the end of this year. But he was the point man for Drexel on the project and, according to Fry, leaves behind an important “legacy” for attracting third-party investments that resulted in growth of the campus.

Since Drexel strives to use its capital to support its academic priorities, outside sources of funding for student housing and other amenities is key.

That’s why American Campus Communities has been so valuable to Drexel. American Campus Communities made this $170 million, 1,315-bed Summit possible adding to the transformational $97 million  ACC project, Chestnut Square, completed in 2013. 

“With access to the public capital markets and low costs of borrowing, American Campus Communities is able to provide a transaction structure that is competitive from a cost perspective and efficient from a delivery perspective,” said Angela Testa, vice president of Management Services at American Campus Communities.

One of The Summit's double-occupancy rooms.

“While ACC was building Chestnut Square and the Summit, Drexel opened the URBN Center and Gerri C. LeBow Hall, invested in major renovations in Stratton and Nesbitt halls and accomplished modernization projects in many other buildings that advanced Drexel’s core academic/research mission,” Tucker said.

American Campus Communities financed the Summit construction and pays annual ground rents to Drexel. ACC operates and manages the property, which is considered University Affiliated Housing but is separate from the University’s own student housing portfolio.  At the expiration of the  ground lease term between Drexel and ACC, ownership of the building reverts to Drexel.

“This project is the first step in the transformation of the Lancaster [Avenue] corridor and we are proud to be a part of it,” Testa said. “After several years of work, it’s gratifying to finally see and experience this amazing Drexel student community.”

Most students moved into the Summit the weekend of Sept. 18–20, weeks after the built-in Urban Eatery — financed by SodexoMAGIC — and its variety of culinary options opened. A 25th-floor sky lounge area is still being finished up, as are ground-level retail spaces.

Standing now, the Summit has made reality part of the 2012 Campus Master Plan, according to Tucker.

Additionally, the site pushes forward Drexel’s intent to bring positive development to its surrounding neighborhoods and West Philadelphia as a whole. And the community has been involved throughout the process, with Philadelphia Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s office, the neighboring Community Education Center the Lancaster Avenue Business Association and the Powelton Village Civic Association all involved with the project.

“Sometimes it is hard to accommodate big changes in the area, but the community has been candid and forward-thinking in our interactions,” Testa said. “It’s exciting to see just how good, collaborative planning results in vibrant, energetic, University City activity.”