A few days ago, the University of Pennsylvania rolled out its shiny new plan for a huge construction project on its eastern edge. Bwog’s mind jumps to Columbia’s own troubled efforts in Manhattanville—but the parallels are a little more complicated. A few facts:
– The cost of Penn’s expansion is about the same, $6.7 billion to Manhattanville’s $7.
– The area to be developed is about twice as big, at 42 acres to Manhattanville’s 17.
– Unlike Manhattanville, nobody lives in the Postal Lands, the 20-acre parcel that Penn just purchased to build on–it really is an industrial wasteland.
– The community doesn’t care. Even the main gadfly group, Neighbors Against McPenntrification (which fought previous expansions as well as Penn’s deal with McDonalds) seems to be okay with it, as are Penn students.
– Two of CU’s recently-appointed Executive Vice Presidents, David Stone (Communications) and Maxine Griffith (Government and Community Affairs) have intimate experience with previous Penn expansions, he as a strategic communications and community outreach consultant for the University and she as Director of the Philadelphia Planning Commission. PrezBo seems to think the two schools have some commonalities.
– The two universities are facing completely different zoning situations. Whereas CU has to wade through layers of tape in an area that’s zoned for mixed residential and commercial use, Philly has essentially no city plan, which makes it a lot simpler for Penn to take over 42 acres with little to no serious complaint.
Pennhattanville? Not quite.