Penn Advances Plans for Innovation and Research Park With South Bank Master Plan

The University of Pennsylvania has released its plans for developing a research park on the 23-acre former DuPont property, located along the Schuylkill River in the Grays Ferry section of Philadelphia. The master plan for Penn’s South Bank envisions a new University asset devoted to advancing research and innovation, and the commercialization of research into new products, services and entrepreneurial ventures.

The South Bank plan, produced by Philadelphia-based planning firm WRT, is a critical aspect of the Penn Connects 2.0 campus development strategy, which has already added nearly 3 million square feet of space to Penn’s campus since 2006 while increasing open space on campus by 25 percent.

“The South Bank of the future will be a dynamic, mixed-use incubator of ideas,” said President Amy Gutmann. “This forward-thinking master plan will provide cutting-edge facilities and professional services for Penn’s community of innovators, researchers, students and entrepreneurs, in order to accelerate the formation of new, University-based business ventures. It puts Penn at the forefront of new business development in the region and creates the potential for transformational change along the banks of the river just south of our campus.”

The plan is designed to support entrepreneurial growth as well as innovation for the technology-led economic development shift underway in Philadelphia. The South Bank master plan aligns with the already-released plans by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation for the long-term revitalization of the entire Lower Schuylkill River into a 500-acre Innovation District that creates a stronger corridor of commercial activity anchored by Penn to the north and the Navy Yard to the South, with the Philadelphia International Airport and other transportation hubs located within the center.

The PIDC master planning, utilizing public/private partnerships, will expand riverfront green space, and connect Penn Park and the Schuylkill River Banks trail system with park land and trails east and south of the site. The South Bank’s strategic location has potential for creating a new keystone that secures University City, Center City and the lower river Innovation District as the three engines of Philadelphia’s economy.

The South Bank will be anchored by the Pennovation Center, a new business incubator and accelerator that will provide lab space and a hub for collaboration, creativity and the exchange of ideas for innovators from all disciplines. Such facilities are key components in the success of research parks as they combine the technically advanced facilities, expert workforce and researchers that a university can supply with the professional development and venture capital that entrepreneurs provide. South Bank has been attracting tenants to the space since 2010 through the adaptive use of existing buildings and some new construction, including such innovators as:

Penn Vet Working Dog Center --  the premier educational and research facility dedicated to harnessing the unique strengths of our canine partners for public safety and human health;
Penn Dental Research Greenhouse -- conducting research on plants as shelf-stable incubators for medicine at a cost effective distribution method;
Penn School of Arts & Sciences Bio Garden -- researching the impact of insects on plants; 
Penn Transit Services -- the fleet management operation of the University, including a new sustainable propane fueling station for the city; 
• KMEL Robotics -- a spinoff of Penn’s GRASP lab in the School of Engineering and Applied Science that has achieved recognition for its customized flying Quadrotor robots; 
• Novapeutics -- established through Penn’s UPStart program, developing treatment for diabetes; 
• Jin+Ja -- offices of locally produced health beverage company; 
• Edible Philly -- local offices of a national publishing company focused on culinary arts; 
The Philadelphia Free Library Operations Center. 

The master plan articulates a phased approach, with the initial development activity focused on constructing light industrial and flex-use buildings easily scaled to fit the needs for practical commercialization and business opportunities in the region. While currently utilizing the existing building capacity of 200,000 square feet, the market analysis absorption planned for the next 20 years is estimated at 750,000 square feet with a long-term site development capacity envisioned up to 1.5 million square feet. 

Additional information about the South Bank is available at

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