Drexel University acquired property on the corner of 31st and Market streets, where the auto-repair shop Firestone currently resides, a University press release announced April 26. The University paid $8.95 million for this 26,675-square-foot piece of land from Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC. Although the property now belongs to Drexel, the Firestone located on it is leased for three more years with the option to leave at any moment. As part of the deal, Drexel is assisting Firestone in relocating.
“When I was brought here by President Papadakis, we developed a master plan that shows the University in 30 years in five-year increments. One of those increments included the purchasing of Firestone. Drexel has been trying to buy Firestone for the last 20 to 30 years,” James Tucker, senior vice president for Student Life and Administrative Services, said.
Drexel contacted the owners of the local Firestone to see if they were interested in selling the property. When they said they were not interested, University officials contacted the national Firestone headquarters in Chicago. Firestone representatives consider the current Firestone at Drexel to be the highest-grossing Firestone on the East Coast. When the headquarters also failed to show interest, a Drexel real-estate agent contacted Bridgestone, the larger company that owns Firestone, and was able to convince them to have the Firestone negotiate with Drexel for the purchase. The original asking price for the property was $12 million.
“It’s in the middle of our campus; if you think about a doughnut hole, it’s a hole in the middle that really stops our university from being a whole university. The City of Philadelphia has agreed considering to sell the little spur of a street and the triangle in front of the Firestone after we purchased it,” Tucker said. This location is planned to be the center for the student union, co-op offices and a new location for the Pennoni Honors College. Tucker said the plans to start the change will most likely come within the next three to five years.
Drexel is also in the process of planning the purchases of many other properties around the area as part of the 30-year master plan. University Crossings is going to give land rights to Drexel for free in September 2013. Drexel is also designing new residence and dining facilities at 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue in place of the existing Frederic O. Hess Laboratories.
Drexel is also beginning a project called the Innovation Neighborhood, which is the revitalizing of the area from 30th Street Station to 32nd Street, the railroad yard, JFK Boulevard and Chestnut Street. Drexel owns 10 buildable parking lots which it will offer up to its partners in order to invest in new land developments that provide retail spaces and academic departments, including biomedical engineering, engineering, health sciences, entrepreneurship and research centers. The partners are expected to be looking to work with Drexel faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, offering possible co-op options.
“We currently are more than 25,000 students including full time, part time, graduate and undergraduate, to go up to 34,000 within the next 10 years. Part of that growth has to have buildings to go along with it, including providing social space, academic space, research space and athletic space,” Tucker said.
These projects, along with many others and the relocation of different offices on campus, will be set into effect within the next five years.