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Drexel University expands, and the local community plays an important role

There's certainly nothing new or unusual about major universities that seem to insatiably gobble up various plots of real estate surrounding their respective campuses. And while it may appear that Drexel, the country's 14th-largest private university, is no different, the reality of the school's most recent real estate acquisition may come as a surprise. That's because Drexel's latest $21.8 million land purchase--a 3.6 acre former public parking lot that sits just east of the school--promises to take the campus in a whole new direction, quite literally.

The thin but long track of land--sandwiched between JFK Boulevard to the south, and the 30th Street Station train tracks to the north--was purchased by the university with the intention of creating a new eastern gateway-style entrance to the Drexel campus, says Bob Francis, Drexel's head of university facilities.

The purchase certainly reflects Drexel's current mission of continuing to grow and expand. But as Francis explains, the strategic purchase was actually much more community-minded than it might have at first appeared.

"When (a school) grows," Francis says, "you don't just grow academics. And it turns out that the direction Drexel has traditionally gone, which is to the north, pressing up against the Powelton Village and Mantua communities, is probably not the way to go in the future, because we've put a lot of stress on those neighborhoods."

It was with exactly that sort of community-focused attitude in mind that the eastward-facing lot was purchased. And what's more, Drexel intends to rely heavily on community input during the year-long planning phase for the new eastern campus entrance.

The school's current plans for the land include developing a number of residential, retail, and mixed use spaces. "We plan to consult with all the partners who have an interest in this," adds Francis, and bring them and the community along with us."

Source: Bob Francis, Drexel University
Writer: Dan Eldridge

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