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Drexel to Transform Chestnut Street into New Gateway for University City

chestnut street

Drexel University and American Campus Communities will transform Chestnut Street between 32nd and 33rd Streets into a new gateway for Drexel and University City, featuring 361,200 square-feet of mixed-use student housing and retail space. Drexel trustees, students, faculty, and professional staff gathered in the courtyard of Creese Student Center and MacAlister Hall on February 21 to officially kick off the $97.6 million project with a ceremonial groundbreaking.

"This innovative partnership combining dynamic urban retail with high-quality student housing will serve as a catalyst in continuing the revitalization of our campus and surrounding community," said Drexel University President John A. Fry in announcing the project. "We look forward to partnering with American Campus Communities to create a more vibrant gateway to University City."

The targeted construction completion date for the project is September 2013.

Drexel appreciates the support and efforts of Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell and Mayor Michael Nutter to assist the University throughout the planning process to meet City zoning, planning and permitting rules and regulations, said Fry.

Nutter was among the speakers who donned hard hats and held shovels for the ceremonial dig on February 21. In his remarks, he praised Fry for his "bold" vision for the future of Drexel, and noted how ACC's nearly $98 million investment in Drexel would benefit the local economy.

Designed by internationally acclaimed Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the development will include two eight-story buildings that front Chestnut Street while maintaining an open entry corridor to the adjacent Creese Student Center. The broad use of glass at the street level combined with limestone will continue Drexel's progress toward creating a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use campus district enlivened by retail amenities.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with such a prestigious institution of higher learning such as Drexel and assisting President Fry in achieving his vision for the University," said Bill Bayless, American Campus CEO. "This transaction stands as an example of a premier university benefiting from private sector investment to deliver world-class housing to its students while preserving its own debt capacity for core capital projects." Rendering of the new look of Chestnut Street

The building design will also include a 19-story residential tower at the corner of Chestnut and 32nd streets. The two-story street-level space will include retail outlets, neighborhood restaurants, and a new corner entry into the Barnes and Noble – activating student life in an urban setting. Upper floors feature student apartments with both shared and private accommodation options.

"At a time of tremendous growth in our residential student population, this development will allow us to continue to offer Drexel students the very best in quality housing, dining, and services, while transforming Drexel's Chestnut Street corridor into a community destination," said James R. Tucker, senior vice president for Student Life and Administrative Services.

About 860 beds of high-quality housing will be available for students. Student residents may select from a variety of unit types, including shared accommodations in a two-bedroom/two-bathroom design or private accommodations in two unit options – a four-bedroom/two-bathroom apartment and an innovative four-bedroom/two-and-a-half-bathroom townhome configuration with in-unit washers and dryers.

The development includes a 14,800-square-foot community center with space for residence life operations and student amenities that include a social lounge with gaming area, a fitness center furnished with modern workout equipment, meeting space, a theater and laundry facilities.

The development was structured via American Campus's innovative American Campus Equity (ACE®) program under which the company will develop, own and manage the project through a 70-year ground lease structure and make annual ground rent payments to Drexel.

Participating in the ceremonial dig on February 21 were (pictured left to right in photo): Adam Trosko, President, Undergraduate Student Government Association; Kevin Smith and Graham Wyatt, Partners, Robert A.M. Stern Architects; James E. Wilhelm, Executive Vice President of Public/Private Transactions, American Campus Communities; Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Richard A. Greenawalt, Chairman, Drexel Board of Trustees; John A. Fry, President, Drexel University; James R. Tucker, Senior Vice President, Student Life and Administrative Services; Brian Keech, Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Office of the President; Cameron Mactavish, Principal, Voith & Mactavish ;and Robert Buckley, Trustee, Chairman of the Buildings and Properties Committee.