About The Works
The Pennovation Works is a unique blend of offices, labs, and production space being developed by The University of Pennsylvania to bridge the intellectual and entrepreneurial initiatives for advancing knowledge and generating economic development. The master plan articulates a phased approach, with initial activity focused on site improvements and renovating existing buildings, beginning with the creation of the Pennovation Center.
Pennovation Works aerial view
The 23-acre property adjacent to Penn's campus will accommodate Penn affiliates in state-of-the-art facilities, including researchers, entrepreneurs, and industry partners solving real world problems and translating inventiveness into viable ventures. By grouping facilities for innovation, technological development, and artistic production/exhibition, Penn envisions a multifaceted workshop for harnessing and commercializing the tremendous creative potential in the region.
The Pennovation Works is anchored by the Pennovation Center, a new business incubator that provides lab space and a hub for collaboration and the exchange of ideas for innovators from all disciplines.
A Strategic Site
The Pennovation Works is a highly visible site that is well connected to the region, Center City, and University City. Recent investments in open space trails have connected the site to the Schuylkill River with dedicated public access and riverside amenities. Penn, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), and the City, along with public agencies, are joining efforts to improve the pedestrian and traffic connections to the site, reposition properties in the surrounding areas, and create improved vehicular and pedestrian access to the neighborhood and University City.
The Pennovation Works framework plan aligns with the PIDC's vision to revitalize the 500-acre Lower Schuylkill River district into a regional Innovation District.
Early implementation efforts are underway to establish a distinctive Innovation District Gateway at 34th and Grays Ferry Avenue. New investment and PIDC master planning will drive the transformation into a mixed-use area featuring cutting-edge innovation, the next generation of entrepreneurs, and expanded university-based research commercialization.
Businesses that are located at Pennovation Works are eligible to receive significant state and local tax benefits including abatement of Business Privilege Tax, Net Profit Tax and Real Estate Tax.
A Flexible Framework
- River/ River Trails
- "Innovation District"
- Mixed-use Innovation
- Cultural Hub
- Events-based Spaces
- Industrial Character
- Working Landscapes
- Flex-Loft Workspaces
- University Research
- Technology Transfer
- Design/Arts Innovation
- Research Entities
- University innovation and research needs/ambitions
- Real estate market demand
Pennovation Works, 1700 — 2017
The Pennovation Works is a 21st century hub for innovation and industry. Beginning with the creation of the Pennovation Center – a building redesigned and adapted from a 20th century paint factory – the Pennovation Works consists of facilities existing for the purpose of turning ideas into economic opportunities for the surrounding area and neighborhoods. Interestingly, when you take a look at the site’s colorful history, you see that it’s been an incubator for industry and innovation in the Philadelphia area for over 200 years.
Pennovation Works site aerial view, circa 1940. [photo credit: Library Company of Philadelphia]
Beginning in 1690, the current Pennovation Works site was host to the Lower Ferry crossing of the Schuylkill River, which served as the southern entrance to Philadelphia throughout the 18th century. In the mid-1700s, ferry operator George Gray began to develop the area surrounding the crossing, opening a tavern and designing a garden to attract patrons to the area, with waterfalls, grottoes, and greenhouses. On the west bank of the Schuylkill River, Gray’s Garden became important to the local horticultural movement, which included celebrated gardens at the Woodlands and Bartram’s Gardens on the west side of the Schuylkill (opposite the Pennovation Works site), and seed manufacturers on the east bank of the river, just a few blocks from the site.
George Washington crossing at Gray’s Ferry, circa 1789. [photo credit: Library of Congress]
Chemical Plant storage yard (near Pennovation site), circa 1902. [photo credit: Kislak University of Pennsylvania Libraries Special Collection]
In 1778, George Gray replaced the ferry crossing with a floating bridge that could be pushed aside to accommodate barges and ships navigating the river. Sixty years later, in 1838, the Philadelphia Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad replaced the heavily used Gray’s Ferry bridge with a permanent railroad bridge, the Newkirk viaduct. With Baltimore and Philadelphia connected via railroad for the first time, industry began to thrive along the riverbank on what is now the Pennovation Works site. Factories sprung up in the location due to its access to the railroad as well as to the river. The site was also far enough from the city center that industry like chemical production and slaughterhouses could operate safely.
From 1865 to 1917, Harrison Brothers operated an industrial chemicals and paint manufacturing company on the site, relocating their headquarters from their original hub in Kensington. Harrison Brothers were leaders in the development of the chemical processes, and with contemporary innovations in the production of the tin cans, the company could make and distribute ready-mixed paint for the first time to average citizens. (Before these innovations, individual batches of paint needed to be mixed with new pigments each time, without the option to package or sell in large batches.) By the late 19th century, the company was one of the top color manufacturers in the United States, employing over 400 workers at its 30-acre Grays Ferry site. Harrison Brothers expanded the site to include facilities for their employees like a restaurant and athletic field, as well as their own power plant and the first private telegraph line in the country.
Gray’s Ferry site map, circa 1802. [photo credit: David Ramsey Online]
In 1917 the prominent E.I. DuPont & Nemours company purchased Harrison Brothers and Co., and the Grays Ferry site became home to DuPont’s new paint and finishes department. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the site - and in particular the current Pennovation Center structure - was a facility for both production and chemical research, and was responsible for many innovations in the field. Successful products developed on the site include Duco lacquer, a quick-drying automotive pain that was durable and revolutionized auto production by dramatically reducing the paint’s drying time. While manufacturing ceased there in the 1980s, DuPont continued with research there until 2009. During the Harrison Brothers and DuPont Company eras, at least 11 patents are believed to originate from research conducted at this site.
In 2010, the University of Pennsylvania purchased the site and worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Environmental Protection in order to clean up and protect the site and its surrounding areas. As the Schuylkill River has its revival with the Bartram’s Mile and extension of the Trail, this industrial riverfront is again establishing itself as a place of connection and progress, where ideas go to work.
Penn Facilities & Real Estate Services
Paul Sehnert, Director of Development Management
Penn Center for Innovation
Pennovation Works is located at the intersection of the 34th Street and Grays Ferry Avenue.
(3401 Grays Ferry Avenue). View on Google Maps
Limited parking is available on the site.
SEPTA bus routes 12 and 64 service the site.
Penn Transit Services offers an on-demand transport service to Pennovation Works for all Penn community members holding a valid PennCard or Pennovation ID. Two guests are invited.
Call 215.898.RIDE (7433). Use Option 3.
Visit the Penn Transportation and Parking website for more Penn transport information.
Groups of larger than 10 people should arrange for Charter Service.
Nearby Indego bike share stations are located at 3499 Civic Center Blvd., 246 S. 40th Street, and 598 S. 43rd Street.
Walking Escort Service
Penn offers a Walking Escort Service which can be requested by calling 215-898-WALK (9255).