The Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania represents the latest piece in decades of investment in a connected medical campus.
Sleek, bronze, and bigger than you might have imagined, a new 17-story structure in West Philadelphia looks complete from the outside. The final piece of the building’s outer sheathing was fitted into place in November 2019. Now, construction work continues on the 1.5 million square feet inside during the final push before opening next year as the newest state-of-the-art inpatient building at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). At $1.5 billion, the Pavilion is the largest capital project in Penn’s history. It has been designed to evolve over the next century.
But it is so much more than a building. The Pavilion, also known as HUP East to those working on campus, does not stand alone.
The new facility is a key connective piece of the HUP campus, a culmination of two decades of change around the site that once housed the Philadelphia Civic Center. It will serve as the centerpiece of an expanded and unified hospital, integrating inpatient care spanning both sides of Civic Center Boulevard with advanced outpatient care at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine.
At the turn of the 20th century, just 25 years after HUP first opened at 34th and Spruce Streets in West Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center rose as a cluster of buildings across the curving street that would later bear its name—Civic Center Boulevard. The Civic Center hosted major national milestones from Democratic and Republican national conventions to speeches and performances by Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and the Beatles. But in 1996, it was finally shuttered, and its 20 sprawling acres offered space for new opportunities. Penn, Penn Medicine, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia entered into an agreement to purchase and develop the site into what would become a vast biomedical district.
By the 1990s, along with the health system that had grown up around it, HUP’s own physical footprint had begun to expand across the street. A blocky former 1970s-era Hilton hotel, Penn Tower—which once housed a rotating restaurant on its top floor—with its rooms retrofitted, became home to HUP executive and administrative offices and outpatient clinics.
In 2008, the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine (PCAM) opened as HUP’s state-of-the-art outpatient facility at the site where the Civic Center previously stood.
In 2015, demolition of Penn Tower and its attached parking garage began, in preparation for the future Pavilion. But to see the change as simply a matter of replacing one outmoded building with a modern one would miss the bigger picture. It was work toward the final piece of a campus transformation long in the making.
How a Corner Became a Campus
HUP’s original location at the corner of 34th and Spruce Streets has remained consistent—but virtually everything else about the building has been in a state of constant growth and change. Over the span of a century, the facility grew as new, connected buildings were appended and periodically renovated, from the Gibson building (1883), through Maloney (1924), Ravdin (1962), Founders (1987), and more. The original 1874 University Gothic-style building (similar to Penn’s College Hall) was demolished in the 1940s. Over time, HUP formed an intertwined warren of structures from different eras that, together under one roof, were the ever-growing HUP.
When the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine opened in 2008, it was connected by a raised bridge through Penn Tower and on over to HUP for staff and patients to travel between the inpatient and outpatient buildings. Three years later, a tower rose at the west end of PCAM: the Smilow Center for Translational Research. Then came an expansion of PCAM’s south tower, including the Jordan Medical Education Center.
HUP’s newest inpatient facility has been on the rise since 2017 at the former site of Penn Tower. Although it will boast over 500 patient rooms, the Pavilion will not replace the longstanding facilities now known as “HUP West” across the street. Refreshing and refitting services at HUP West into newly opened spaces are part of the plan, too.
Connecting “One HUP”
The Pavilion is the connecting piece of a unified campus, what HUP CEO Regina Cunningham, PhD, RN, calls “One HUP.”
With construction underway, in 2019 Cunningham began to host a series of town hall sessions for HUP staff, previewing changes to the hospital campus, answering questions, and reinforcing the message that the growing hospital remains “one team, one mission, one HUP.” Numerous focus group sessions have empowered staff to shape the planning process for changes that will occur when the new facility is open.
Planning for operational changes, both at HUP East and HUP West, is already occurring. The Emergency Department has changed its patient flow model already, anticipating different needs with its two-story layout after moving to the new building.
Computer simulations of pathways and travel times between locations on the HUP campus are part of the transition team’s planning process, as hospital leaders as well as the PennFIRST team comprising architects, designers, project managers, and clinical experts together prepare for the transport of supplies, transfer of patients between units, and travel between facilities by clinicians and visitors.
A Model Medical District
“Connectivity fosters collaboration,” said University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann. “The research and discoveries emerging from this centralized campus are mapping the future of medicine, and demonstrating the depth of what is possible when we work together to execute bold ideas.” The new “One HUP” will sit at the northern edge of a vastly transformed University City Medical District, comprising a substantial footprint of the main campuses of Penn Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Just in the last few years, major scientific advances and FDA approvals for cell and gene therapies on this combined campus have helped establish the area as a world-renowned ecosystem for innovation and a magnet for startup companies. According to an analysis commissioned by the three institutions on the impact of development on the former Civic Center land and its adjacent properties, when the Pavilion is operational, this subset of the district alone will serve 1.8 million patients and visitors and be home to almost 10,000 employees working to advance the future of medicine.