Ten years ago, the West Philadelphia area between Philadelphia’s Center City 30th Street Station and the neighborhoods surrounding Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania was allocated to a post office mail sorting facility and acres of parking lots. Today, the dreary space has been transformed into Cira Centre South, one of Pennsylvania’s newest, and most vibrant, mixed-use communities.
The development, planned and built by Brandywine Realty as a so-called “vertical neighborhood,” has begun reinvigorating Philadelphia’s downtown with 2.7 million square feet of office space, retail property and residential condos.
In June, the FMC chemical company plans to move into its new 49-story headquarters. The opening of the 730-foot FMC Tower will symbolically complete the community, whose mix of mass-transit oriented logistics, livework-play design and flexible office space provides a template for 21st-Century urban planning—and economic hope for aging downtowns everywhere. Its location offers easy access to Amtrak service to the east, connecting businesses with East Coast cities from Washington to Boston. The residential build-up means workers can walk or bicycle to work, rather than buy cars.
Pierre Brondeau, CEO of FMC Corporation, links Cira Center’s contemporary mixed-use environment with his company’s decision to relocate into the new tower. “Our ability to retain and attract the best talent is critical to our success,” he said. The new headquarters “will provide an office environment that encourages employee collaboration, engagement and creativity.”
“Global companies like FMC have the opportunity to expand anywhere in the world,” said ex-Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett. “FMC chose to grow here.” Other transit-centered, mixed-use neighborhoods have risen along the Northeast Corridor, notably Boston’s Innovation District, which occupies 23 acres of South Boston’s Fan Pier waterfront.