Permits have been issued for the construction of a single-story substation structure at 3817 Spruce Street at the University of Pennsylvania campus in University City, West Philadelphia. Designed by Pennoni Associates and O Z Collaborative, the structure, officially known as Replacement Substation #4, will be located at the interior of the superblock bound by Spruce Street to the south, Walnut Street to the north, South 38th Street to the east, and South 40th Street to the west, and will span 1,880 square feet. Permits list HSC Builders & Construction as the contractor and a construction cost of $3.3 million.
The project shares the address with the Mayer Residence Hall, also known as Stouffer College House, a seven-story-tall student dormitory. The substation itself will be located directly to the north of the dorm, replacing a portion of a green space. Other neighbors of the substation, which will face an inner-block driveway, will be the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity house to the west, the Spruce 38 multi-story garage to the east, and the Harnwell College House, a 26-story student residence, to the north.
The structure will espouse a highly utilitarian facade, clad in a largely windowless brick facade with what appear to be four narrow windows on the western exterior. Perhaps, upon completion, the structure may be spruced up by murals painted on its blank walls.
While the substation will provide important utility service for the university, it nevertheless requires an unfortunate, though not overly significant, loss of common green space. A much more significant loss of open space took place when New College House West, a high-rise student dormitory, was recently completed on the opposite (northwest) corner of the superblock. While both structures may arguably be stated to effectively utilize underused portions of the block, we hope that the trend of replacing UPenn’s remaining green space with new development does not accelerate in the future.