THE FLURRY of construction activity near Drexel University's main campus is primed to continue with the proposal of a 24-story residential tower, but some nearby residents fear that it won't be enough to keep up with the school's booming enrollment.
The project, proposed for 34th and Lancaster Avenue, would offer roughly 1,300 beds in about 350 suites for students. It would include modern amenities such as private bathrooms, and have first-floor retail space catering to community residents.
The tower would continue the development boom on Drexel's University City campus. Chestnut Square, a mixed-use project on Chestnut Street between 32nd and 33rd, is under construction, as is a new home for the LeBow College of Business. The university also plans to begin work this summer on the Raymond G. Perelman Plaza.
University officials said Lancaster Square would be built by American Campus Communities, which also built Chestnut Square, and is part of its plan to bring students out of residential neighborhoods in Powelton Village and Mantua.
"This is a several-pronged approach to deal with some of those concerns about public safety and improve the gateways, 34th and Lancaster being a key gateway," said Brian Keech, Drexel's senior vice president and executive director of the president's office.
The Powelton Village Civic Association is concerned, however, that the $165 million project still won't be enough to meet the demand as Drexel's enrollment climbs. Some neighbors are also concerned about the logistics of housing so many students in a location outside Drexel's education-district zoning boundaries.
"Historical data indicates that those students will migrate en masse on Friday and Saturday nights in search of parties in the neighborhood," the civic group said in a statement.
Another concern is parking. Keech said there would be about 100 spaces underground and that additional parking would be available within a few blocks, which he called sufficient.
The project still needs approval from the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment because it exceeds the maximum density permitted at the site and contains less open space than is required.
Keech said the university would like to keep the proposed density because it is needed to invigorate Lancaster Avenue's commercial district and draw students.
"It creates the amenities and things [students] are looking for, which is the reason they go off campus," he said.
In terms of Drexel's plan to add 9,000 students, Keech said about half of that is expected to come from expanded online enrollment and some from satellite campuses in the suburbs. He also said Drexel's master plan calls for most of its future development to go toward 30th Street.