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Accolades for Penn's West Philadelphia Initiatives

Urban Land Institute Award

The University's West Philadelphia Initiatives project won top honors in the Urban Land Institute's Awards for Excellence 2003 international competition, now in its 25th year and widely recognized as the community's most prestigious award.

The West Philadelphia Initiatives program, a multi-faceted urban-planning and community-development program, has reduced crime and blight, increased job opportunities and improved the quality of life in West Philadelphia neighborhoods. Those developments in turn have reinforced the University's ability to attract the best students, faculty, staff and research opportunities.

"Urban universities have the power and the responsibility to make a positive impact in their communities, and we at Penn are delighted to be honored by the Urban Land Institute for our work," said President Judith Rodin. "Thousands of Penn people have been involved in this commitment to the community.  They all share in this honor."

This comprehensive neighborhood-revitalization program was structured around these five principles: clean and safe streets, housing and homeownership, improvement of public education, economic development and commercial development. Among the successful Penn projects honored with the ULI Award for Excellence are:   

  • University Square, a 300,000-square-foot project housing the Inn at Penn, and the Penn Bookstore as well as restaurants, retail space and public plazas (Almanac June 17, 1997).
  • Hamilton Square, a 75,000-square-foot project (Almanac May 11, 1999) featuring Fresh Grocer, The Bridge cinema (Almanac November 12, 2002) and a multistory parking garage.
  • The Left Bank, a $55 million conversion of a 700,000-square-foot warehouse into 282 market-rate apartments with retail and office space (Almanac February 6, 2001).
  • The Penn Alexander School, a 83,000-square-foot public elementary school, on a five-acre site, developed by Penn's Graduate School of Education in conjunction with the Philadelphia School District and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (Almanac October 15, 2002).

The success of the West Philadelphia Initiatives in bringing employment, investment and quality-of-life improvements to West Philadelphia has become a model for collaboration between universities and urban communities throughout the United States.

American Institute of Architects Awards

When the 2003 AIA Philadelphia Awards for Design Excellence were handed out on October 9--at the Loew's Philadelphia Hotel, in the former PSFS building--Penn was well represented.

Penn projects won three awards at the organization's annual ceremony; this year's winners were chosen by a jury of Chicago-based architects.

One of four  Honor Awards--for projects that "exemplify high design quality" in the Built Category--went to Kieran Timberlake Associates LLP, for the Melvin J. & Claire Levine Hall (Almanac September 5, 2000), serves as a "bridge" for the Engineering complex.

Two of the eight Awards of Recognition for built projects that "deserve recognition for their design quality" were for Penn projects. Atkin Olshin Lawson-Bell Architects for The Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander University of Pennsylvania Partnership School (Almanac March 6, 2001) were honored, as were MGA Partners, for the innovative temporary, but reusable stage created for commencement ceremonies (Almanac April 24, 2001).

The goals that guided development were: respecting  the community and university heritage, improving the relationship between Penn and the surrounding neighborhood, orienting buildings to the street, promoting infill construction, establishing open and green spaces to connect the community, and rehabilitating existing buildings.

University Square, from Walnut Street, looking westward. Photo by Barry Halkin


Left Bank, looking eastward


Photo by Catherine Tighe

Photo by Nancy B. Matlack

Penn Alexander School


Commencement stage. Photo by Stuart Watson


Levine Hall. Photos by Barry Halkin


Hamilton Square, 40th and Walnut Sts. Photo by Barry Halkin


  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 16, December 16, 2003