A weekly series of foul-mouthed investigations into empty lots, dead-ass proposals and other design phenomena in Philadelphia. Find more stories like this at Philaphilia.blogspot.com.
3400 to 3800 blocks of Market Street
The University City Science Center loves to generate Dead-Ass Proposals like it's their hobby, but this one is definitely their most large-scale attempt. Had this happened, the construction would be done by now and the 3400-3800 blocks of Market would make the average passerby shit their pants with astonishment. The University City Science Center began developing on this stretch of Market Street in 1965 (they were in the Widener Building before that) and has had about 5 gorillion different master plans and building proposals since. Even though lots of new construction and development is taking place there now, it pales in comparison to this master plan.
In 2004, after 4 decades of existence, less than 75% of the UCSC's land was filled, and that doesn't even count the housing projects and property they gave away to appease local NIMBYs whose shitty neighborhood they destroyed. The hotels, residences, and convention center that were always part of the plan still never happened. The average Philly visitor didn't know what the fuck the Science Center was and people who were actually seeking to find the UCSC couldn't find it. On top of all that, the USCS's agreement with the Redevelopment Authority was nearing its renewal phase. The Science Center was going to have to convince the RDA to let them hold on to this land, which now consisted of some vast, decades-old surface parking lots.
Using a $75,000 grant from the Federal Government, the UCSC approached the Los Angeles-based Jerde Partnership and begged for their help. Jerde went on to spend 4 months interviewing University City businesses, residences, and other interests. They held workshops and brainstorming sessions to come up with what the University City Science Center could do to make itself badass enough to push toward its final completion after 4 decades of failed attempts despite its success at incubating small businesses and providing space for Life Sciences and technology companies.
By August 2004, Jerde was ready to present their plan. 1.8 million square feet of new office buildings, condominiums, restaurants, and a conference/convention center with a beautification of the Market Street streetscape to make the area look less like shit. All these things had been proposed for the UCSC before, but this time it would be put into grand scale. The corner of 36th and Market was slated as the "Gateway" to the UCSC, while the whole master plan itself was slated as the "Gateway" to University City. People love their gateways.
The "gateway" to the UCSC at 36th and Market. Where did all those people come from? Oh yeah, someone's imagination.
Would you like another? At the corner of 34th and Market, twin glass towers would be installed, one of which would eliminate the Science Center's first building, 3401 Market. The two towers would have a curvy cutout at the northwest and southwest ends of the corner that would come together into an invisible arch, yet another "gateway".
At least this rendering is more realistic about how many people would be around.
At the barren corner of 38th and Market, which at the time had two massive surface lots catercorner from one another, two huge yellow residential towers were planned, complimented by two yellow office buildings on the opposing side. The residential towers would also serve as the entrance to a pedestrian plaza that had some more yellow buildings, which I can only assume is the conference center. Wait... is that another "gateway"?
Obviously, none of this shit happened. Like many "master plans", this one was more of a suggestion than a absolute plan toward construction. Like many other proposals from its time period, it fell victim to the housing crash. To be fair, this master plan didn't die without leaving SOME lasting effect. 3711 Market Street, which was one of the buildings proposed in this plan, did come to fruition. However, the final product wasn't designed by Jerde but by the DC-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership. Construction began in 2008 and was completed in 2010.
Here's the rendering. The real one came out very similar.
Included in 3711 was a prominent restaurant space, so that part of the master plan also seems to have come to fruition. Streetscape improvements came along in 2010, spurred by local neighborhood interests and funds from the public tit. Plans to fill the remaining empty lots at the UCSC are also finally becoming reality. 3737 Market, at the northeast corner of 38th and Market, began construction about a year ago and is now almost topped out, although a bit shorter than originally planned.
At 36th and Market, where the 2004 master plan called for one of its many "gateways", a new apartment tower is to be built and will begin construction very soon. This thing might actually bring the foot traffic that the Jerde renderings wished for and give the UCSC the on-campus residences that have been part of its plan since 1963. The architect is the Gund Partnership.
It only took 50 years to get this one going. Its actually going to be TALLER than originally planned!
Towers at 34th and Market and the southwestern corner of 38th and Market have also been rumored and some very basic conceptual renderings have been sighted. Therefore, this Dead-Ass Proposal seems to have a bigger silver lining than any other I've featured before. Good for you, University City Science Center. You finally got your shit together and will be able to give us a West Market Street worth talking about.
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