The Young Leaders Council Communication Committee spoke with Paul Commito, Senior VP of Development, Brandywine Realty Trust and Evan O’Donnell, Managing Director, AKA University City about the new FMC Tower and its impact on the surrounding University City Neighborhood.
1. It’s the first!
Commito outlines the myriad of ‘firsts’ this gem offers, and defines the vertical neighborhood concept:
We have not seen anything like the vertical neighborhood in Philadelphia or the region. Whether it’s work, working out, entertainment, or eating out, you’ve got the all the lifestyle amenities you could possibly want, in a building over 1 million square feet. On top of that, FMC tower is the tallest building in University City. Evo (the second building of Cira Centre South) is the tallest purpose-built student housing in North America.
2. Epitome of Mix-use
O’Donnell breaks down the unique mix of building users:
This is a very unique project. Other projects may have a commercial and hotel portion, or condo and commercial combination, but none have a combination all three different uses. We have commercial tenants, residents in house, hotel guests, club level members, and restaurant patrons. Many different users within one building that share in the unique nature of this property.
3. Did we mention it’s the first…
Commito reminds us that, not only is the building’s program a first, but landscaping in the sky provides an exclusive respite for patrons as well:
One of the amenities immediately adjacent are two glass elevators that bring you up to Philadelphia’s first elevated park, Cira Green. That’s part of the amenity package as well, and it is often overlooked
4. Transformation of West Philadelphia to University City
10 years ago, Cira Center planted a seed, which has now grown into the University City Neighborhood Philadelphians know today. Commito describes his view from across the Schuylkill:
5. There’s more than education
Due to its name, many residents and commuters through the city are convinced that University City is only for the ‘Eds & Meds’. O’Donnell believes that new residence of FMC will find other hidden gems west of 30th Street:
From the long-term resident standpoint, the individuals in the building may have had limited exposure to University City or anything West of the Schuylkill. Once they come here and into the suites they see how much growth there is in the University City neighborhood, how active it is and that it’s so much more than just the Universities. They recognize, in some cases, what they’ve been missing, and that this is where the future lies in growth and expansion. We’re within a 5 minutes’ walk to Rittenhouse Square and a quick commute to Center City. It’s got the access to different parts of the city, and Brandywine’s doing their part to make this the center of the City.
6. Tying it all together… or pushing out?
Commito explains another higher education neighborhood that is similar to University City and how it impacts the city as a whole:
University City will be what Cambridge is to Boston. When people visit Boston, they don’t differentiate between Boston and Cambridge (the home of MIT and Harvard).
Philly has a tremendous amount of people using alternative transportation – biking, Uber, etc. The nexus has shifted west towards University City and the riverfront. Philadelphia overall is pushing out in all directions as more people are coming here.
7. Who is going to live here?
O’Donnell sheds some light on where current and future residents are moving from and their plans:
The resident makeup is varied . We’ve seen everyone from empty nesters to those “test driving” Philadelphia, looking to explore the idea of city living. We are attracting New York and DC commuters who see the quick access to trains as an amenity as well as residents tied to Ed’s and Med’s of University City. Everyone is interested in the newest and most impressive property when it comes to heights, views, amenities, and services, so we’re seeing some movement from other areas of the city. We are also seeing movement from the entertainment community including athletes because we’re a highly serviced building, we offer anonymity through our private driveway, and the central location to highways and stadiums. Employees of the tenant companies are critical as well.
8. Who is going to work here?
The majority of the commercial space has been filling quickly, Commito takes the reins for the commercial base of the building:
Two big anchor tenants, FMC Corp (previously in BNY Mellon center) and Penn are big and local tenants. Once the building really got into its rhythm and started going up, interest in the project become more widespread. Some companies came from the suburbs others form outside the Philadelphia Region, so it really runs the gamut. FMC’s stock price went from $50 to $75 a share. I’m not saying it’s because they made the move, but naming the building after FMC didn’t hurt.
Written by Bryan Wade Heritage, RA, Project Architect, The Pettit Group, and ULI Young Leader Communications co-chair.