Drexel University’s Innovation Neighborhood

Philadelphia, PA


Among the new paradigms arising in higher education is the research consortium. In this model, groups of universities combine to bring together key research leaders, technical resources and equipment, information technologies and databases, and other resources. A number of such consortia have developed in the Northeast, in part because of the research institution density and access to industry. By linking research institutions with each other as well as with business leaders from major Northeast cities, the NEC helps facilitate educational research and the application of research to industry.

Drexel University’s Innovation Neighborhood is an ambitious initiative to redevelop a 12.5 acre area directly west of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station into a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood that incorporates commercial, residential, research laboratory, and educational space. This area of West Philadelphia consists largely of surface parking today, but it could potentially support up to 6.5 million square feet of new development. The graphic above provides a view of the proposed Innovation Neighborhood development sites in relation to 30th Street Station. Also located in proximity to the Innovation Neighborhood are Drexel’s ExCITe Center incubator space and the University City Science Center research park (two existing examples of university/industry synergy), as well as Cira Centre (the first office tower in West Philadelphia), which has a direct connection to 30th Street Station.

A study of the economic and fiscal impact of the Innovation Neighborhood commissioned by the University estimated that over 9,500 new jobs directly related to Innovation Neighborhood will be generated by the development. These investments will allow the private sector to capitalize on research-based innovation and may bring new products and create new companies, and new jobs, in the city of Philadelphia.

Access to the NEC is an integral element of making the Innovation Neighborhood work. Drexel’s Vice President for Corporate Relations and Economic Development, Keith Orris, said that he couldn’t envision the Innovation Neighborhood project moving forward the same way without 30th Street Station. He says 30th Street Station is an “incredible asset” that is key in attracting the private sector tenants needed to make the initiative a success.

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Renderings of Drexel’s Innovation Neighborhood by Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. Photo courtesy of Drexel University.

“Imagine the impact for Philadelphia when visitors arrive at the city’s most convenient transportation hub and disembark right into a brand-new neighborhood dedicated to learning, to innovation, and to entrepreneurship.”

Drexel President John Fry, Testimony on the Importance of the Northeast Corridor, Field Hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee