Philly Tech Hub Developer Wants Silicon Valley Minus the Gentrification

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A new Philadelphia tech-and-research megacenter is in the works for West Philadelphia, and the CEO in charge hopes the project won’t duplicate the gentrification that’s rippled off tech-centric growth in other U.S. cities.

Dubbed uCity Square (the tagline’s “A Community of Ingenuity”), the center could have 10 new buildings covering up to four million square feet, near Penn and Drexel universities, and could raise the city’s profile as an innovation hub. The Philadelphia center would also offer retail and housing. According to University City Review, at a recent groundbreaking, Steve Tang, CEO of research park University City Science Center, which is developing uCity Square, said:

“Some of you may be familiar with the Brookings Institution’s report on the rise of innovation districts … it says that innovation districts are geographical areas where leading institutions cluster and connect with startups and business incubators. They are also physically compact, transit accessible, and offer mixed-use housing and retail.”

Tang told news site Philly, that he hopes to avoid pushing out the neighbors.

“For too long, innovation and entrepreneurship have been viewed as an elite offering for people that are just in the sciences and technical areas,” he said. “What we’re trying do is make those concepts more approachable.”

Longtime residents nearby are all too familiar already with the effects of gentrification, and Tang noted previous tensions that have risen over the years amid a University City construction boom in West Philadelphia. He says he hopes to learn from the city’s past mistakes.

“What’s happened in the past, when Penn and Drexel were beginning to grow, was that there was a lot of displacement and tension between the neighborhoods and institutions,” he told Philly. “We’re trying to create an environment where there’s really a community between the two.”

Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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