Since being rebranded in the 1950s on behalf of the University of Pennsylvania, University City has definitely come to merit its academic moniker. The district is split into two factions: On the east sprawl four campuses – Penn, Drexel University, the University of the Sciences, and the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. To the west lies a growing residential district, which boasts a blend of stately Victorian and turn-of-the-century houses.
Both sectors are growing at impressive rates — residential trends across U-City have seen an 11% increase since 2010, and 4.5 million square feet of office, residential, academic, research, restaurant, and medical space are currently in development.
The area’s proximity to no fewer than six institutions of higher education makes it popular with innovative players in the medicinal, technology, and academic fields. Nearly 40% of all people employed in University City work in the healthcare sector – little wonder, given that two hospitals in the region (Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) are consistently ranked among the top in the nation.
The imminent arrival of the Cambridge Innovation Center, a renowned hub for fostering serial entrepreneurship, at 3675 Market Street reflects a promising future for U-City’s role in international technology and scientific development. Another mainstay in University City is FirstRound Capital, one of the most prominent early-stage venture capital firms in the country.
Further indicative of the immediate region’s growth is the debut of the FMC Tower at Cira Centre South, self-billed as Philadelphia’s first vertical neighborhood. By the time the 49-foot dual skyscraper opened its doors, it was already nearly 100% leased. That Penn is Philadelphia’s largest employer is evident here; the university leases 100,000 gross square feet for administrative offices.
Drexel is making headway in the area as well. The university is spearheading an ambitious outdoor project known as Schuylkill Yards, slated to open in fall 2018.
There’s been a recent surge in the hospitality industry, too. In 2016, thanks to the launches of AKA University City (also at FMC Tower) and The Study at University City, the neighborhood hotel inventory skyrocketed, with an impressive 48% increase in rooms. University City boasts the trademark youthful feel of a college town, while neighboring Center City offers the perks and access of a major downtown core.
University City Office Space | Lease Data & Trends
Across all building classes, the average office space in University City costs just under $42 per square foot. For Class A, it’s right over $47 per square foot, while Class B asking rents hover around $35 per square foot.
This puts University City right in the middle price-wise when compared to other neighborhoods in the Central Business District. It’s slightly more expensive than the average office in Center City, but more affordable than the Navy Yard. However, asking rents in University City are up almost 11% year-over-year, and are predicted to increase.
This is because the area has only around a 6% direct vacancy rate, compared to over 10% in the Central Business District and 12% in greater Philadelphia. It also has limited inventory – roughly 4 million square feet, a minor portion of the 45 million-plus that’s available in the larger CBD.
What Our Brokers Say About University City Office Space for Rent
There’s a reason University City was crowned with a triple “Paradise” score from WalkScore: Its 2.4 square miles are easily navigated via public transport, bicycle, and on foot. In fact, nearly 70% of residents utilize these options to get around.
That public transport is so popular in University City is little wonder – its main transit is the iconic and bustling 30th Street Station. In addition to being a major intrastate hub (it’s Amtrak’s third busiest station in the country), 30th Street is serviced by 13 SEPTA lines, making it easy to reach from nearly anywhere in the greater region. And once workers arrive to the area, they have access to over a dozen Indego bike-share stations.
Right outside the south entrance of 30th Street Station awaits The Porch. As one of Philadelphia’s premier outdoor destinations, this lively green space routinely hosts music performances, outdoor drinks (weather permitting), and event pop-ups, such as free shows from local dance troupes. Food trucks roll up every Monday through Friday, offering a fun, alfresco spin on work lunches for the surrounding businesses. For more traditional out-of-office work spots, our team recommends Aksum for adventurous mediterranean, Local 44 for standby classic fare, and the newly-opened, veritable art-deco destination, Louie Louie.
This ease of accessibility and blooming, vibrant atmosphere make University City popular with innovative businesses looking to recruit young, promising talent from the nearby campuses.
Get to Know University City, Philadelphia
Like so much of West Philadelphia, University City has a long history of diversity. African American and Asian communities have long called this easternmost part of West Philly home.
The area is decidedly dynamic, too – for proof, look no further than the Institute of Contemporary Art. It was here in 1965 that the state’s native son, Andy Warhol, presented his first ever solo show. Today, the Institute continues to draw thousands of visitors annually, many of whom are intrigued by its ongoing commitment to honoring fresh voices of the contemporary avant-garde.
Just a quick stroll down Woodland Walk reveals two impressive green spaces: The 54-acre undulating landscape known as The Woodlands, and the small but welcoming Clark Park. The Woodland’s historic cemetery (its graves date back to 1840) is a peaceful and active center for community involvement today. And Clark Park consistently sees a number of events, ranging from festivals and flea markets to a year-round farmers’ market at South 43rd and Baltimore.