Pennovation Transformation

Philly industrial building to be rehabilitated into incubator hub


After nearly 10 months of pre-construction, Hunter Roberts commenced work on the new University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Pennovation Center on May 15, 2015. The 58,000-SF, three-story facility is the first major development within UPenn’s 23-acre site known as Pennovation Works. Located south of Penn’s Campus, the former DuPont laboratory is in close proximity to Center City and University City and will become an iconic landmark for Penn. The Pennovation Center’s program will enable entrepreneurs, researchers, and industry partners to translate inventiveness into viable ventures in a dynamic environment.

The project plan includes the transformation of an existing industrial building, formerly used for materials-science research, bringing it back to life as Penn’s hub for innovation, research, and entrepreneurialism. A focal point of the building includes a faceted northern facade that bursts from the existing building with angular panes of glass. Reaching toward the University’s main campus to the north, the illuminated facade is both a beacon for the Center and the interface where invention meets business.

“The Center is designed to bring the University’s eminent researchers and scientists, along with our extraordinary students, together with the private sector to foster creative exploration, entrepreneurship, and new alliances and to generate economic development for the region,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann. “We are excited about the discoveries that will come out of the Center and about the kind of real societal and economic impact they will have in our region, the country and the world.”

Inside, the Pennovation Center incorporates an array of areas calibrated for both private and collaborative activity including co-work desk space, meeting rooms, wet and dry labs with shared lab-support equipment, social spaces, and a central bleacher space dedicated to the various presentations that infant startups make to woo investors and supporters. A series of garage doors on the eastern facade open directly to ground-floor studio spaces, a nod to the many groundbreaking companies that began out of a home garage.

The third floor will be occupied by the Penn Engineering Field Research Center and will house a unique and open environment designed to promote fundamental research and accelerate the lab-to-market technology transfer pipeline in robotics, in the Internet of Things, and in embedded systems.

Hunter Roberts’ work in this first phase of the development includes sitework and infrastructure improvements for Pennovation Plaza and the surrounding landscape to establish a connection from the site’s perimeter inward. Project completion is expected in June 2016.



Image courtesy UPenn