Monday, November 11, 2013

A New Philadelphia

With all the whining about shadows and burnt tomatoes on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, University City seems anxious to give Center City a run for its money. Brandywine's recently proposed skyscraper, the FMC Tower at 30th and Walnut seems to be breezing its way into existence with no opposition. 

Even more astonishing, West Philadelphia office space is now higher than Center City's central business district.

Although FMC's name will be on the tower at 30th and Market, the district's universities are behind the district's growth. The current economic climate has driven the region's academic expansion architecturally rivaling the building boom of the early 2000s.

University City's growth is creating an exciting, new Philadelphia skyline. Perhaps part of the appeal driving up rents its more manageable infrastructure.

Philadelphia, unlike New York or more expensive, densely packed cities, is not devoid
of developable land. Most current development is taking place outside Center City. While new University City and North Broad Street projects are being developed with urbanism in mind, they lack the parking and traffic issues that impact Center City but also sit near major public transportation hubs.

With easy parking, University City provides Philadelphia with all the benefits of a new city like Atlanta or Charlotte but at the same time, provides extensive transportation opportunities.

The new developments will ultimately turn University City's corridors into an extension of Center City with all of its demons and realities, but for the time being, it's attractive to new business.

The bonus in all of this is that University City is very much part of Philadelphia, and despite the Schuylkill River, is still integrated into the fabric of our core.

While towers continue to pop up around the district, they're being built within an existing pedestrianized infrastructure.

40th and Walnut may not look like the most desirable addresses now, but putting more residents at the edge of the river will bring sidewalk improvements, parks, and bike lanes.

Soon enough, walking from University City to our city's proper core won't be a burden, but a pleasant walk across a beautiful river and a true gateway to Center City.

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