American Campus Communities responded to Drexel University President John Fry’s transformational vision of the modern urban university with differentiated housing types tailored to the Philadelphia market. The firm’s unmatched student housing expertise and use of equity has reinvigorated the University City neighborhood with vibrant commercial venues and expanded Drexel’s housing capacity by more than 3,000 beds.

The Drexel University – American Campus Partnership

President John Fry’s vision to transform Drexel University in Philadelphia into a modern urban university includes addressing an urgent need to expand and upgrade its housing portfolio in response to enrollment growth. Among Drexel's challenges was a shortage of on-campus housing options, specifically suite-style accommodations for lower-division undergraduates and upper-division apartments. 

As a result, students were moving off campus into surrounding residential areas, disrupting the traditional neighborhood dynamic.

Drexel initiated its first student housing public-private partnership in December 2010 with a competitive process to develop a challenging project along the highly trafficked Chestnut Street central to campus. To entice students back to campus, Drexel wanted to create a contemporary urban campus environment and foster spaces that encouraged activity and connected the campus to the University City neighborhood, while maintaining the highest and best use of existing facilities and university land.

American Campus incorporated innovative solutions for each of the master plan objectives and was awarded the development opportunity. On a confined project site (51-feet deep) bounded by operational facilities (student center, theater and dining hall), the 861-bed Chestnut Square project features a 19-story high-rise with apartments and two eight-story buildings of stacked townhomes above street-level retail. 

The project opened in September 2013 with a $100.7 million total project cost using American Campus Equity (ACE®). Chestnut Square serves as a university gateway experience that strengthens Drexel’s connection with the University City neighborhood and provides modern accommodations for upper-division students. In addition to beginning a housing product evolution, the Chestnut Square project laid the cornerstone for a strong relationship between American Campus and Drexel University.

American Campus won a second competitive process in November 2012 and began developing a high-rise residential and mixed-use project at the intersection of Lancaster and 34th Avenue on the campus’ northern edge. Opening in Fall 2015, The Summit at University City features 1,315 beds in apartments and suites in a 24-story high-rise design with sweeping views of the Philadelphia skyline. 

A 20,000-SF dining facility serves residents and the larger campus. The building’s north wing incorporates a low-rise design with townhomes and walk-up flats above street-level retail that connects directly to the Lancaster Avenue neighborhood. The Summit at University City, an American Campus Equity (ACE®) project, represents the largest such project in the histories of both Drexel and American Campus at a development value of $155.6 million.

Adding to the partnership portfolio, American Campus transferred ownership of the 1,016-bed University Crossings apartments to Drexel in 2013 in an agreement to modernize the building and provide additional university administrative space. The former Pennsylvania Railroad office building, built in 1926 and identified on the National Register of Historic Places, had been converted to student housing and was acquired by American Campus in 2008.

The American Campus-Drexel University partnership includes three projects with a total development value of $365 million and expands the university housing capacity by approximately 3,200 beds. All projects were funded by American Campus Communities.
 
Project specifics

Name Beds Project cost Completed
Chestnut Square 861 $100.7 million 2013
University Crossings 1,016 2014-2015
The Summit at University City 1,316 $155.6 million 2015

University Crossings

University Crossings

The Summit

The Summit at University City

Chestnut Square Lounge

Chestnut Square Lounge

The Summit

The Summit at University City