When the Science Center in Philadelphia, a 17-acre research park in the University City neighborhood, decided to turn a parking garage into a mixed-use rental development to help make the area a 24/7 destination, Southern Land Co. was eager to win the RFP competition. Based in Nashville, Tenn., the developer knew that Philly had very old housing stock and not enough residences to meet demand in the nation’s fifth-largest city.
The Center, a nonprofit consisting of 31 shareholders such as the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, employs thousands within walking distance of the site; many others attend area graduate schools.
Go Glam and High
Once it won the right to build on the Center’s 99-year ground-lease site, the developer knew not just any retail-cum-residential design would do. The team felt a tall, hip structure, which they named 3601 Market for its address, would boldly signal the Center’s forward-thinking mission. With original architect Gund Partnership, in Boston, and, later, two local firms, BLT Architects and The Harman Group, as structural engineers, the plan called for 363 residential units and 28 stories with alternating bands of high-performance glass and metal, an angled design to capture views, and LEED Silver specs.
A major challenge was locating the structural columns, due to the building's multiple uses, says Kirk Harman, president of The Harman Group. Strong city unions pushed building costs up, leading the team to adopt a simple shape with a four-level parking garage above the ground floor.
Like many other developers nationwide, Southern Land knew the primary demographic for its urban location would be young professionals and grad students wanting to walk to work or classes and have access to mass transit. To attract them, the team made the majority of the units studios and efficiencies.
“This group doesn’t want roommates; they’re used to their own room,” says Dustin Downey, Southern Land’s director of multifamily development. The smallest studio measures 415 square feet and leases monthly for $1,500, while the largest two-bedroom runs 1,525 square feet and costs $4,700 a month. All reflect the popular loft vibe, with 9-foot ceilings and exposed concrete.
Beneath the apartments is 15,600 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
Ramp Up the Creature Comforts
Since millennials have shown they expect amenities for socializing and fitness, the 3601 Market includes an appealing array: an outdoor, heated saltwater pool; fire pits and grilling stations; an indoor demonstration kitchen; computer desks; conference rooms; a well-equipped, 15,000-square-foot gym; and sophisticated lobby decor with fireplace and cobalt blue accents. The latter even includes custom artwork featuring Philadelphia subject matter, selected by designer Stephanie Dunn of Faulkner Design in Dallas.
Dunn added other novel touches, too, such as round light fixtures that “dance” out to the pool. Condo-quality finishes such as quartz countertops help compensate for the units’ smaller dimensions. “This demographic favors finishes and lifestyle over size,” says Downey.
Elevate the Stock
The first tenants moved in this past August, shortly after the building was completed and just two years after construction began. As of mid-August, 72 units, or 20% of the property, had been leased.
The building has added “good urban density and a liveliness to achieve the 24/7 neighborhood desired,” says BLT architect and design principal Michael R. Ytterberg. Adds Downey, “3601 Market elevates the housing stock in University City.”