ZBA signs off on USciences' expansion plan in University City


Aerial view of Science and Technology Center site
This aerial photo from Google Maps shows the site (arrow) of the University of the Sciences' planned Science and Technology Center on Woodland Avenue.

The University of the Sciences’ plans to expand its Science and Technology Center in University City and connect it via a pedestrian walkway to the existing Samson College of Health Sciences received unanimous support from the Zoning Board of Adjustment last week.

The 55,000-square-foot building will house the Physician Assistant program and feature a green roof with plants that will not only beautify the now-wooded area but also help curb flooding, an issue on everyone’s mind lately.

Michael McCalley, attorney for the University of the Sciences, said the two buildings, the existing Samson College at 4500 Woodland Ave. and the future development at 4306 Woodland Ave., needed several variances.

USciences STC addition
Architect's rendering of USciences' Science and Technology Center expansion

4306 Woodland Ave. is zoned industrial under the old code and that doesn’t permit educational facilities. It also needs a variance for the walkway and a setback variance for yard depth that was reduced from 8.5 percent to 8.4 percent during planning.

“We’ve met with met with Mr. Cabry of Councilwoman Blackwell’s office,” McCalley said. “We’ve also met with the West Shore Civic Association on June 20 and on Oct. 10 and we believe we’ve dealt with their concerns about construction issues: noise, dust, fumes, and rodents. Through the last meeting we felt that we had adequately addressed those issues and we’ve asked for a letter of support or non-opposition.”

Martin Cabry, director of zoning for Councilwoman Blackwell’s office, appeared on her behalf and said that the Councilwoman supported the project. The Philadelphia City Planning Commission had no objection. However, the University received no letter from the West Shore Civic Association in any form.

Some neighbors still have concerns about students—and rats.

A resident of Linmore Avenue, whose house is adjacent to the development, said that it’s the heavy equipment and all the noise it will create that concerns her. She is especially worried about the time of the construction. But her major issue was with rats.

“All the rodents are going to move from where they are going to build will move right into my back yard,” she said. There is no official count of the rat population of the area, but it does border the west shore of the Schuylkill, so it could be significant or it could be minimal.

The block captain of 46th Street, named Lucille, also lives right behind the proposed development.She had an issue about a lack of notices, but she isn’t a member of the West Shore Civic Association. However, her major issue is with the students.

“The students are all around and the old folks don’t have anywhere to park, “ she said, “and they have parties all the time. They should build a parking lot so they have somewhere to park.”

McCalley said that the university has various measures they are going to take to deal with noise, fumes and rodent control measures. “I understand her concerns about her property being adjacent to the building,” McCalley said. “But we plan to screen the southern side of the building with trees. And as you can see, it is a hill, but more or less the southern side of the building will be one story.”

The sum of all of Drexel’s, Penn’s, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s, and the University of the Sciences’ activities add up to a renaissance in health and science development in University City, which will create jobs and a need for more living space. So expect much more residential development in the coming years. There are already many projects under way or being planned.

-By Matt Stringer for PhiladelphiaRealEstate.com