After an initial review of the Campus Master Plan released by President Fry, we were wholeheartedly behind his intrepid, broad and very needed revamp of Drexel’s direction. More green space, a stronger connection to Center City and the creation of an engaging transportation and retail hub around 30th Street Station are all things that excite us.
Yes, we’ll probably be far removed from Drexel by the completion of many of the more ambitious projects within the Master Plan, but the children in us can’t help but be excited by some of the renders of a future Drexel that would probably be more at home in Dubai. If the Master Plan unfolds according to plan, the next two decades will see Drexel becoming one of the most forward-thinking urban university campuses to date. In stark contrast to UPenn’s ivy-covered brick, Drexel will be all glass and chrome, and we can at least look forward to that.
But these fantasies are tempered by the very thing that makes them so awesome. We worry that the sheer audacity of the project may be its very undoing. We applaud President Fry and his team for staking out a clear and exciting plan and for seeing the broader picture. We recognize them for giving Drexel a more prominent identity that is hard to discern in our current mismatch of buildings. But, as is so often the case with these huge projects, the devil is really in those details.
Some of these details are pointed out by Hidden City Philadelphia’s well-thought-out Jan. 10 blog post “Embrace and Enliven,” like just how hard it will be to expand Drexel into parts of the Powelton Rail Yard and how much the plan relies on market-rate development that just isn’t there yet. Then there are the details that haven’t been addressed yet, like: With so many future buildings including retail space, what safety issues will arise with the public being granted access to so many interior University properties? Will the rent from these retail spaces be put toward construction costs or abating Drexel’s ever-rising tuition, or neither? Does a school that has recently focused so heavily on distance learning technologies really need so many new residence halls?
The plan is bold. The plan is beautiful. And the plan will change hundreds of times before its completion. We are very excited by the plan as it stands now, but we cannot wait for these plans to be opened up to the general student population to be critiqued and improved. The Drexel Master Plan Blog has been instrumental in connecting a small segment of the student population to the development of these plans, and it’s a masterfully honest and truly informative website for those of us who care deeply about these changes to our campus.
Let’s see more of that. As students, we want to be embedded in the development process. The administration gave us a tease of future Drexel in the Master Plan, and now we’re hungry for the details. President Fry, the student body can’t wait to see the details of this ambitious plan.