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In Philly, business booms where battleships born

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 10, 2013 at 4:08 pm •  Published: February 10, 2013

"We started at a time when the suburban business park was kind of the model," Grady said, "but of course what we've seen is a shift back to cities."

Like a college campus, the layout is conducive to workers venturing out of their offices. Shared park-like green spaces are hallmarks of the site, as are commissaries and cafeterias that are open to everyone, not just employees of the building where they're located.

The model has proven particularly appealing to businesses from outside the city: Nearly two-thirds of the 130 businesses at The Navy Yard are new to Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter said.

"The momentum ... only has accelerated throughout the recent recession," he said. The area has added 60 companies and 2,500 employees since 2008.

Adding to the urban environment in the next several years will be 1,000 apartment units in a cluster of existing and new buildings, along with grocery shopping and other neighborhood necessities. A sleek 170-room hotel is under construction and development is expanding up to the Delaware River.

A desired piece of the puzzle that may be toughest to achieve, however, is extending a subway line to the Navy Yard. Those who don't drive to work must catch a city bus or a shuttle from downtown for the five-mile trip.

Grady estimated it could cost $350 million to extend the subway and add a couple of station stops inside the yard. It's not on the immediate horizon but it is a goal, he said.

The Navy Yard hasn't abandoned its industrial roots. Aker Philadelphia Shipyard makes commercial tanker ships, several other companies manufacture shipbuilding-related products and the Navy has research and engineering facilities on site as well as some mothballed ships.

The newest tenant is pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. About 1,300 employees relocated last week from a downtown office tower to an $80 million, 208,000-square-foot building, and about 500 more will arrive later this month.

The move allowed the company to custom-make an energy-efficient, eco-friendly building with modern collaborative workspaces and an open floor plan, and the location is much closer to the airport, said Glaxo project manager Ray Milora.

"Everyone really is excited to be down here," he said. "We were in a very traditional, standard, beige, American office space. ... It's amazing how everything changes by taking down walls and being able to see people."