Event Recap: Mentorship Series 2021
Throughout March 2021, ULI Philadelphia hosted a sold out four-part virtual mentorship series.
On April 15, ULI Philadelphia’s Health and Life Sciences Local Product Council hosted a panel discussion, “The Formation of A Life Sciences Neighborhood – A Study of the Navy Yard”, on the current redevelopment of the Navy Yard into a thriving live-work-play hub focused on the proliferating bio-life sciences industry. Panelists included Kate McNamara (PIDC), Leslie Smallwood-Lewis (Mosaic Development Partners), Scott McNallan (CRB Consulting Engineers), and Mark Seltzer (Ensemble Real Estate). The panel spoke at length about what makes the Navy Yard a place where the bio-life sciences industry can thrive, the types of development people can expect to be there, and other challenges that might be present as the Navy Yard evolves.
McNamara kicked the Navy Yard discussion off by offering key insights about its history and trajectory. The 12,000-acre former shipyard and naval base now has a diverse mix of employers, where 15,000 employees are spread across 175 jobs. Employers include ship building, defense contractors, e-commerce, and the nascent bio-life sciences industry which currently has 750,000 square foot of space and still expanding. The Navy Yard’s location positions it as an important life-science manufacturing hub. Its location directly on the northeast corridor, its proximity to the Philadelphia international Airport and interstate 95, and a 10-minute drive from the University City bio-life sciences cluster makes the Navy Yard and attractive place for firms looking to test products and bring them to market. Once all the proposed development is complete, the Navy Yard’s full build-out will include 5.9M square feet of office and commercial uses leveraging $2.3B of investment.
Next, Smallwood walked the audience through the Navy Yard’s master planning process. To create a live-work-play environment, the Navy Yard will need the critical mass of residents that will serve as a consumer base. To create this neighborhood feel, the Navy Yard plan’s initial phase will be mostly housing development. Mosaics is targeting the Navy Yard’s “historic core” district to serve as its residential-scale community. On adjacent Kitty Hawk Avenue, 350,000 square feet of retail space is planned, along with restaurants, grocery stores and other amenities. Moving out from the core, Mustin North will have also accommodate some residential, but will mostly be industrial and pharmaceutical uses and will have larger floor plates than in the historic core. Finally, Mustin South will accommodate residential and mixed-use development, which will enjoy views of the waterfront. But to maximize the Navy Yard’s use as major employment hub, job sites are being planned here as well. According to Smallwood, they are targeting a minimum of 15% affordable housing units. Affordability will be institutionalized through 40-year deed restrictions.
According to Seltzer, the Navy Yard has all the key ingredients: research infrastructure, human capital, and innovation output. Innovation in the field begins in University City, a great incubator for small companies and startups that are bolstered by a network of world-renowned hospitals, universities. As innovation comes out of the University City cluster, the Navy Yard will be responsible for the research and development (R&D), and manufacturing of those products. The distinct type of work taking place at the Navy Yard will need to accommodate several design considerations. For example, for R&D space, McNallan stressed the importance of there being a “convergence between innovative thinking and very technical environments”. Open areas, connecting floors, and the use of glass will enhance the flow of people and ideas to create a collaborative working environment. In designing and constructing the clinical and commercial manufacturing spaces, special attention will be paid to safety precautions, as both product types must meet several federal safety guidelines. In the commercial manufacturing spaces in particular, these structures will need ceiling heights of 27 feet, leaving ample space for scaling up and implementing research coming out of the R&D phase. The master planning team is also committed to local retail that procures from M/WBE firms. In the design, construction, and phasing of the Navy Yard build-out, they are targeting a minimum of 30 to 35 percent MBE and 10 to 15 percent WBE participation, with 50% of firms used being local.
Development at the Navy Yard is aiming for sustainability in every sense of the word. In terms of environmental sustainability, the Navy Yard has always used sustainable building practices. The office campus already has a large collection of LEED-certified buildings. As the Navy yard becomes more built out, the development team will need to think more strategically on how new buildings will be powered in a robust and sustainable way. Also, to increase accessibility to Navy Yard, the master planning team is weighing several options to connect the site to the broader region (specifically Jefferson Station and 30th street) that are more cost effective than the formerly proposed Broad Street Line extension, covers more ground than the current Navy Yard shuttle, and provides an alternative to accessing the site by car. McNamara said in the short term, the team is considering light rail, or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This accessibility will be important as there will be jobs of all types and salary levels, and making sure Philadelphians are able to access these jobs will be crucial in promoting environmental and economic sustainability.
ULI Philadelphia would like to thank the Health and Life Sciences Council, attendees, and sponsors for making this event possible.
Contributed by Stewart Scott, Master’s of City Planning candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and ULI Philadelphia intern.