Temple’s Center City Campus adapts for the future

University officials are exploring ways to maximize the future use of the space for all students and faculty.

Temple is exploring how best to use its Center City space to benefit all students. | OLIVER ECONOMIDIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As Temple’s Center City Campus celebrates its 50th anniversary this spring, the site continues to offer an accessible location for students in Philadelphia to work toward their degrees.

The building has historically been valued as a satellite location for adult learners and people who work in or commute to Center City using public transportation. But as online learning becomes more prevalent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, university officials are reimagining uses for the space, said Vicki Lewis McGarvey, vice provost for University College.

“There’s definitely a difference in students, particularly part-time students, how much in-person work they’re seeking,” McGarvey said. “A lot of the courses are now more hybrid, so students are taking some percentage online and coming to campus less often. That definitely has us looking and thinking about other things that make sense at that campus.”

As vice provost for Temple’s University College, McGarvey oversees programs at the Ambler, Harrisburg and Center City campuses, as well as online. The college is branded as an adult-friendly avenue for completing credit, non-credit and continuing education programs, according to the university. 

The Center City campus, located on Market Street near 15th right across from City Hall, offers a range of degrees and career development resources for older students. The two largest degree programs at the campus are the Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy, and the majority of for-credit classes there are in the evening, McGarvey said.

Temple Center City also operates a wide variety of adult learning programs during the day. The campus has an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers daytime, noncredit classes in subjects like liberal arts, science and foreign languages to people 50 years of age or older.

In the evenings and on weekends, the Boyer College of Music holds a Music Prep program in the space and welcomes Boyer students to practice in the campus’ music rooms. The space also has an institute where students can receive their real estate license, and the campus offers corporate rentals.

“All that being really in the heart of the city with the public transportation accessibility makes it a really attractive spot,” McGarvey said.

Melanie Ellison-Roach, director of the Center City campus, believes a lot of students may not be aware of the computer labs that can be accessed by all students, faculty and staff.

“I think that it will continue to be a place where there’s education for a lot of different kinds of populations, and I think as traditional college education evolves, that the Center City Campus is going to have to evolve along with it,” Ellison-Roach said.

Though there are both noncredit and for-credit classes in the building every day, McGarvey believes there isn’t the same demand for in-person classes universitywide. As a result, McGarvey and other administrators are thinking about other uses that make sense at the Center City campus, she said.

In addition to its usual classes and learning programs on campus, university officials are now beginning to have conversations about other uses and more unique programming for the space.

“Using it for speakers, more events, things that are always going to be in person and not online,” McGarvey said. “Even partnerships with other institutions who need space that might use some of our space that we can sort of benefit from being together.”


To achieve that goal, Temple is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Center City location with events, lectures and other programming that highlight the space and its history of serving Philadelphians.

Administrators in the building have planned and are sponsoring several activities this year to highlight the 50-year anniversary, Ellison-Roach said.

As part of the celebration, they are hosting a “TUCC Talks” speaker series which includes Vice President for Research Josh Gladden, College of Public Health Dean Jennifer Ibrahim and College of Science and Technology Dean Miguel Mostafá.

“Our intent is to involve the community as much as possible with TUCC Talks,” Ellison-Roach said. “I mean, Temple Center City’s history speaks to involving the community in those kinds of programs, and so we are hoping to bring back many of those. I think that the TUCC Talks series is just the first effort to do that, in commemoration of our 50th anniversary.”

The Center City campus is also evolving its classroom spaces alongside Main Campus so they are capable of offering more hybrid programs. Ellison-Roach is working to enhance learning areas to smoothly offer both in-person and remote learning at the same time, she said.

University College is also communicating with other departments around Temple to identify who may need office space or find it more convenient to be in Center City.

“We’re always looking to be good stewards of university resources, and if we have space that someone can use, there’s no reason to go and rent and spend money on space near us when we’re right there,” McGarvey said.

Temple has leased the 1515 Market Street space since 2001. The university leases around 130,000 square feet of the building. The current lease will end on June 30, 2027, and the university is in the process of deciding what the future of the building is, said Jonathan Reiter, associate vice president of finance.

Temple signed a five-year lease extension on its space in the building in 2022, including the second through sixth floors and a portion of the ground level. Nearly $60 million in debt backed by the property was transferred to special servicing in December 2023, making the building one of many office properties in the area that are struggling, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported.

Special servicers are entities that assume servicing responsibility for defaulted loans or loans that are at risk of default, according to Bloomberg Law.

Accesso Partners, the owner of the building, has a $59.4 million balance on the loan it took out to acquire the space for $85 million in 2014. The loan was originated by JPMorgan Chase & Co. before being converted into a commercial mortgage-backed security and sold to investors, and the loan is set to mature in January 2025, The Philadelphia Business Journal wrote in the article.

The status of receivership does not affect Temple, just the building’s owner, Reiter said.

In the meantime, both McGarvey and Ellison-Roach emphasize the fact that the Center City space is there for any students, faculty and staff to use and take advantage of.

“All it takes to get in is a TUID.” McGarvey said. “We have computer labs and printing facilities and zoom rooms and spaces you can study in breakout rooms. We also have music practice rooms, so you can come practice your piano or your instrument there. We’re here, so if you’re in Center City, come in and use the spaces.”

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