$250M Life Science Campus Planned at Historic Philly Site – Commercial Property Executive

February 5, 2023

Quartermaster Building 15. Image by FIFTEEN Design + Architecture, courtesy of Scheer Partners Inc.

Developer SkyREM is moving ahead with the conversion of Philadelphia’s historic Quartermaster site into the Quartermaster Science + Technology Park. The $250 million mixed-use redevelopment is slated to include 1 million square feet of wet and dry lab space for R&D and bio-manufacturing companies, in addition to restaurants, a boutique hotel and retail spaces.

Besides SkyREM, also on the development team is FIFTEEN, an architecture firm with experience in life science projects. MPN Realty is the retail broker for the campus, while Scheer Partners Inc. will be leasing the science and tech space.

SkyREM did not respond to a request by Commercial Property Executive for additional information.

A history-rich property

The site’s official address is 2724 S. 20th St. in South Philadelphia, but its origins go back well before the current city. What was originally the Schuylkill Arsenal was established in 1799 and produced uniforms, tentage, blankets and other textile items during the Civil War. From the 20th Street location, the depot provided textile products during World War I, World War II and the Korean War, as well as for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.

The 11 current buildings came online between 1939 and 1942. Uniform production moved to northeast Philadelphia in 1994, and the South Philadelphia site has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2010.

The envisioned life science campus

SkyREM acquired the site in 2001. The 24-acre campus includes 6 acres of green space and an ALDI supermarket opening this quarter. The property houses a headquarters for Indego bicycle transit and has several other tenants in the healthcare and security sectors, for a total of 200,000 square feet currently occupied.

READ ALSO: Exploring Redevelopment Opportunities Within Life Sciences

The eventual six R&D buildings at Quartermaster Science + Technology Park will have industrial-style aesthetics like large factory windows, exposed ceilings and polished concrete floors. Most of the existing facilities are fully remediated and have heavy dual-feed power, while gas and water upgrades are currently underway.

The redevelopment will feature multiple public green rooftop spaces with renewable energy, for networking and social events. The buildings will be Energy Star- and LEED-certified; in addition, SKY Power, the developer’s renewable energy subsidiary, plans to build substantial rooftop solar to produce nearly all electricity for the campus.

The location, in South Philadelphia’s Point Breeze, offers convenient access to Interstate 76 and to public transportation via SEPTA bus routes 7 and G. Philadelphia International Airport is roughly 6 miles away.

A moderating sector

In a prepared statement, Tim Conrey, senior vice president of Scheer Partners’ Philadelphia office, touted the Philadelphia region’s status as a leading bioscience cluster, with 1.7 million square feet of current tenant demand for life science space.

This demand is generally cooling from its recent surge, according to a 2023 outlook from CBRE. So while construction continues apace in the top markets like Boston, the Bay Area and San Diego, markets in the secondary tier, including Philadelphia, “should see more stable conditions due to less new construction,” CBRE predicts.

This past December, Gattuso Development Partners and Vigilant Holdings obtained a $290 million construction loan to develop a 519,647-square-foot life science center in Philadelphia, reportedly to become the largest in the city. The lab space is 45 percent preleased to SmartLabs and Drexel University.

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