Are the conditions right for a new Silicon Valley or Research Triangle in the heart of Philadelphia? Drexel says yes, and it's not alone.
The city's center of gravity is shifting. After two decades of progress in the Center City business district, momentum is building to the west for a complementary hub: the innovation district.
University City — home of three universities and a major health system as well as the nation's first urban research park — has long been a beacon for science and technology. The concept of a broader innovation district is shaped by Philadelphia's burgeoning life sciences and new media industries, and opportunities for transit-oriented development.
"We're seeing a lot of places crop up around town where young people are gathering, inventing new businesses, particularly in the technology sector," says Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for commerce and economic development.
"When an institution like Drexel very clearly states that it has ambitions to be part of this innovation world and this entrepreneurial world, it dovetails beautifully with the organic growth of technology in the city."
Projects fueling this vision stretch from the University City Science Center's expansion and Drexel's adaptation of the former University City High School site in the west, to innovative development along the Schuylkill River by Penn and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, across the river to Comcast Corporation's plan for a second landmark tower. Drexel's 12-acre Innovation Neighborhood project (see below) is a critical component as well.
The most transformative opportunity for the district lies at its center: Amtrak 30th Street Station, the nation's third-busiest passenger rail terminal. Drexel is partnered with Amtrak, SEPTA, Brandywine Realty Trust and other stakeholders on a 30th Street Station District Plan looking at the commercial and transportation possibilities around the station, including the air rights over the 80 acres of train yards due north.