Graduate Hospital Grows Up

Graduate Hospital, with its proximity to the Rittenhouse Square, downtown businesses and University City, has experienced remarkable growth over the past decade. However, new proposals are taking that growth in a bold new direction – upwards.


Philadelphia Real Estate Blog has reported that two new highrise developments (both slated for five stories) are being considered for Graduate Hospital. In an area this hot however, these first-of-their-kind projects may have a profound effect not just on the future of the neighborhood, but on Philadelphia’s  cityscape as well.


To understand what’s remarkable about these proposed highrises, it’s important to acknowledge certain aspects of Philadelphia’s architectural history. While New York City has hundreds of highrise apartment buildings, most of Philadelphia’s housing stock (with the exception of parts of Center City) is defined by two to three story rowhouses. This city-wide lack of verticality was created by numerous factors, including local economic history, population trends and, perhaps most famously, the Gentlemen’s Agreement that from 1901 thru 1987 kept developers from building any structure higher than the statue of William Penn that stands atop City Hall.


For its part, when Graduate Hospital began to rebound about a decade ago, developers initially found a seemingly inexhaustible supply of conversion-friendly rowhouses (along with plenty of empty lots) in the neighborhood. Years of construction though gobbled up most of the area’s available space; these new proposed highrises suggest then that we’ve reached a point where developers must now build up, rather than out, to provide more square footage in the neighborhood. With so much similar housing stock throughout the city, this scenario is likely to occur more and more as time, and urban redevelopment, goes on.


It should be said however what benefits developers does not always benefit communities. Highrises come with their own unique drawbacks, including loss of sunlight, stresses on parking and other issues associated with more vertical, denser neighborhoods. Furthermore, a continued emphasis on building in Graduate Hospital may come at the expense of less developed neighborhoods to the south and west as well.


In the end though, successfully building taller neighborhoods relies on more than just new buildings, but also anticipating an evolving needs of the affected community. A big part of this is ensuring residential development goes hand in hand with commercial and infrastructure development as well. To their credit, both of these new proposals have just these kinds of mixed-use elements. It’s incumbent on developers and leaders however to ensure that as communities reach upwards, they also reach inwards in order to shape a healthy, livable future.

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