Pennovation Works

Pennovation Works

Site and Development Plan

The Pennovation Works (formerly called South Bank) is a University of Pennsylvania real estate asset, located along the Schuylkill River at the intersection of 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue. This 23 acre former heavy industrial site offers the opportunity to accommodate a variety of uses that support the research and entrepreneurial mission of both University clients and third party commercial tenants.  Pennovation Works is in a highly visible location that is well connected to the region, Center City, and University City.  It is envisioned to become a keystone in the emerging Lower Schuylkill Innovation District.  Recent investments in open space trails have connected the site to the Schuylkill River with dedicated public access and riverside amenities.

The site, and surroundings, are industrial in character, and contain a range of buildings, from wide-span warehouse facilities to an advanced research laboratory.  The development plan articulates a phased approach, with initial activity focused on constructing light industrial and flex-use buildings.  Landscaping for the entire Pennovation Works site will include stormwater management techniques, increased connections between buildings, and access to the Schuylkill River trails.


Phase I Design and Development

Conceptual Rendering of Pennovation Works, aerial
Conceptual Rendering of Pennovation Works Aerial Site Perspective

This first phase of development at the Pennovation Works is a $37.5 million investment by Penn and includes the Pennovation Center, site landscaping and infrastructure improvements, along with signage and branding. The site planning calls for design of the Pennovation Plaza and surrounding landscape which establishes a connection from the perimeter inward and forms a central active outdoor hub for tenants, as well as an instrumented, outdoor robotics lab. 

The creative design team which has collaborated with Penn on the project includes HWKN, design architect; KSS Architects, architect of record; landscape architects Land Collective; and graphic design consultants Bruce Mau Design.

Completion of the Pennovation Center and the first phase of the Pennovation Works site improvements is anticipated in the summer of 2016 with the Penn Engineering lab opening in late fall 2015.


Pennovation Center

The Pennovation Works will be anchored by the Pennovation Center, a business incubator and laboratory that will align and integrate researchers and entrepreneurs for the translation of basic research into products, services, and new business ventures.  The 58,000 sq. ft. facility will house two floors of co-working space designed to support individual entrepreneurs and startups from the University and the private sector seeking affordable and flexible office space. The Center will create and host workshops, programs and professional-development resources for this community. These floors will include wet and dry labs with shared lab-support equipment, meeting rooms and social areas. The third floor will be occupied by the Penn Engineering Field Research Center, integrating computer science and electrical, mechanical and systems engineering.

Pennovation center rendering

Conceptual vision for the Pennovation Center. 


Tenants and Leasing

The Pennovation Works has been attracting tenants to the space since 2010 through the adaptive use of existing buildings and some new construction, including such innovators as:

  • PCI Ventures -- promotes entrepreneurial activities and new company formation around Penn's leading research and innovations;
  • Penn Vet Working Dog Center --  the premier educational and research facility dedicated to harnessing the unique strengths of our canine partners for public safety and human health;
  • Penn Dental Research Greenhouse -- conducting research on plants as shelf-stable incubators for medicine at a cost effective distribution method;
  • Penn School of Arts & Sciences Bio Garden -- researching the impact of insects on plants; 
  • Penn Transit Services -- the fleet management operation of the University, including a new sustainable propane fueling station for the city; a pilot shuttle service is offered to the Penn community;
  • KMeL Robotics -- a spinoff of Penn’s GRASP lab in the School of Engineering and Applied Science that has achieved recognition for its customized flying Quadrotor robots; 
  • Novapeutics -- established through Penn’s UPStart program, developing treatment for diabetes;
  • Netronix -- remote monitoring solutions for a variety of environmental conditions;
  • Edible Philly -- local offices of a national publishing company focused on culinary arts; 
  • The Philadelphia Free Library Operations Center.


Pennovation Works In the News

October 8, 2015
Benjamin's Desk to Operate Pennovation Center
Philadelphia Business Journal

February 26, 2015
Penn Trustees Approve Design for Pennovation Center at Pennovation Works Site
Penn News

January 23, 2015
Transformations: 50 things that will change Philadelphia in 2015
Philadelphia Business Journal

Jan/Feb 2015
Tracing the Digital Revolution at Penn's New Home for Innovation
The Pennsylvania Gazette

November 11, 2014
Penn's South Bank campus gets a new name; Pennovation Center breaks ground
Flying Kite

November 11, 2014
14 development projects that will transform Philadelphia
Flying Kite

November 4, 2014
Celebrating Innovation and Showcasing Penn’s Pennovation Works
Penn Almanac

July 11, 2014
The startup of something big
Philadelphia Business Journal

March 5, 2014
Inside Penn's Vision for South Bank as a Start-Up Incubator, Research Hub
Plan Philly

June 5, 2013
River of Industry
The Architect's Newspaper

January 5, 2013
Over the River: Penn South Bank in Gray's Ferry Will Be A Knowledge Gateway
Penn Gazette

June 18, 2012
University of Pennsylvania Expanding East of the Schuylkill
The Inquirer

September 25, 2010
Penn Purchasing 23 Acres Across Schuylkill
The Inquirer


For more development information on the Pennovation Works and the Pennovation Center, visit: