We’ve told you about Schuylkill Yards, the massive redevelopment project surrounding 30th Street Station. The $3.5 billion mega project will include 6.9 million square feet of office, laboratory, residential, hotel, retail, and green space. Schuylkill Yards is being led by Drexel University and Brandywine Realty Trust. Back in April, we told you about the first phase of Schuylkill Yards; Drexel Park. The park, which replaced a surface parking lot, is now open to the public.
The Bulletin Building stands on the western edge of the park. The building, erected in 1954 and designed by architect George Howe, was once home to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, a nightly newspaper that was in business from 1847 to 1982.
The Bulletin Building originally had a blank eastern-facing facade. After the newspaper’s demise, Drexel University acquired the building in 1993 and proceeded to cut strips of windows into the eastern side of the building. So, the Bulletin Building we have been seeing over the last 25 years is not the exact design that George Howe created. It was adapted to suit the needs of Drexel.
Just as the media industry has had to adapt several times to changes in technology over the last few decades, the Bulletin Building will evolve again. This time, much more dramatically. Brandywine is currently tearing off the grey brick facade of the building. A modern sheathing with large windows will open up the building to the new park below and will allow natural light into the building. From the renderings, it looks like only the eastern-facing facade will be receiving this treatment.
The design for the Bulletin Building project has shifted since the introduction of the Schuylkill Yards master plan. Original renderings and marketing materials for the redevelopment showed a large digital screen on the Bulletin Building (see bottom of article for original rendering). Schuylkill Yards marketing videos showed park goers watching sports games on the screen-covered building. More recent renderings of the Bulletin Building project show large windows outlined in a red grid pattern. We spotted what we believe is a sample of the curtain wall material in a parking lot across JFK Blvd. from the development. Often, developers will erect a facade mockup near their developments in order to see how the product looks on site and how it responds to weathering.
We think the new design looks nice. It will be interesting to see how the red looks when the project is completed. It is a bold color choice to say the least, but this is a bold project. We are ok with the video screen being scrapped. Video screens are cool in concept, but unless there is enough quality content programmed to display every day, we feel like the screens would be a distraction. Also, with the speed of advances in screen technology, a digital facade erected in 2019 would likely look dated before the entire Schuylkill Yards project is completed.
Spark Therapeutics, a Philly-born startup pharmaceutical company specializing in genetic disease treatments, is the anchor tenant for the project which sits within an Opportunity Zone. The company signed a lease for 150,000 square feet of office and lab space in the building and has an option to take on an additional 150,000 square feet if they desire. We are not sure if they have exercised this option or when the deadline to do so is. 35,000 square feet of retail space will be included on the ground floor of the project. We would like to see a restaurant or food hall user occupy the space.
We are extremely excited to see Schuylkill Yards take another step forward. This project will change the landscape of Philadelphia. After the Bulletin Building project is completed, Brandywine’s next focus will be a series of skyscrapers that will line JFK Blvd. on parcels that are currently surface parking lots. We cannot wait to see the area surrounding 30th Street Station continue to transform.