Drexel Square Park, the first step of a multi-billion-dollar project aimed at transforming the area around 30th Street Station into an “innovation neighborhood” focused on inclusion, opened Monday across the street from the transportation hub.
The $3.5 billion project dubbed Schuylkill Yards seeks to make University City and neighboring West Philly neighborhoods a place where tech companies and their employees “can live, work and play,” Drexel University President John Fry said of the project in 2016.
The first piece of the puzzle: the public green space. During the unveiling on Monday afternoon, Fry said developer Brandywine Realty Trust, which built the nearby Cira Centre, was committed to making the project accessible to those at the nearby universities and neighborhoods.
“Who would take the single most valuable piece of property, where he could have built a 50-story building, and create a beautiful gateway to university city and a public park?” Fry said of Brandywine’s President Jerry Sweeney.
When the development project was first introduced in 2016, and again at the park’s unveiling Monday, the developers and public officials involved touted ongoing efforts to be inclusive — namely, inviting residents of nearby neighborhoods such as Mantua and Powelton Village to benefit from Schuylkill Yards.
This will happen largely through Brandywine’s partnership with the Construction Apprentice Preparatory Program (CAPP), which trains and apprentices folks in construction trades and places them in union jobs.
Walter McGill, director of CAPP, said it took less than 24 hours to get Brandywine on board to train and hire workers from surrounding neighborhoods for the years-long project.
“We are changing the structure of West Philadelphia,” McGill said.
He added that 40 people have since graduated from the program and are working the project, and another class of apprentices is underway.
Councilmember Jannie Blackwell, who was recently lost her primary race after representing University City and West Philly for decades, said she knew the project was “something special,” from the beginning.
“I love the trees, I love this grass, I love all this entails when it means we all work together,” Blackwell said. “It doesn’t matter how much you have, it doesn’t matter who you are and where you live, everyone is included in this, and that’s why West is best, folks.”
Schuylkill Yards developers, Councilwoman Blackwell, @DrexelUniv pres. John Fry and Mayor @JimFKenney cut the ceremonial ribbon at Drexel Square Park, first step in multi-billion dollar development project. pic.twitter.com/wS7aIP4a2b
— Paige Gross (@By_paigegross) June 10, 2019
The project is far from being completed, as mixed-use buildings intended for educational, medical, entrepreneurial, research, corporate and retail spaces will continue to go up over at least the next decade.
The opening of Drexel Square Park continues Monday evening with food, music and video games designed by Philly K-12 students displayed on nearby skyscrapers. Read more about the teen design program and meet the coders and their games below.-30-
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