Drexel Square, artist's rendering.

Pa. Sen. Vincent Hughes wanted to send a message to to Amazon at Wednesday morning’s Drexel Square groundbreaking, but there was one problem. He couldn’t remember the CEO’s name.

“Who’s the head of Amazon, Mr. Mayor?” he asked Jim Kenney, who was sitting behind him on a stage at the future site of Schuylkill Yards.

Kenney told him, and Hughes said the name: Jeff Bezos.

“If Amazon is smart,” he said, “they’ll know to show up here.”

Such was the excitement surrounding the groundbreaking, the first part of the $3.5 billion Schuylkill Yards project that over the next 20 years is expected to transform the area of West Philadelphia between 30th Street Station and Drexel University. The development will feature several buildings and high-rise towers, and space for startups and established companies. But it will start with one new park, hailed by Drexel President John Fry as “the long-awaited sixth square of our city.”

Drexel Square will be located between 30th Street Station and the nearby Bulletin Building, once home to the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspaper, taking up 1.3 acres. Compared to Philly’s other square, it will be a little smaller. Washington Square, Franklin Square and Rittenhouse Square are between six and eight acres. LOVE Park is just over three acres. Drexel Square’s main features include a communal lawn and 30 Dawn Redwood trees that will be 25 feet tall when planted.

Schuylkill Yards, artist’s rendering. Credit: Brandywine Realty

The next steps for Schuylkill Yards after Drexel Square, said Brandywine President Gerard Sweeney, will be the redevelopment of the Bulletin Building and construction of a mixed-use tower. Brandywine plans to redevelop a total of 11 properties for Schuylkill Yards and create an area featuring 14 acres, nearly of half of which will be green space.

Schuylkill Yards was listed as one of three potential locations for Amazon’s second headquarters in the city’s pitch to the internet giant.

“Whether Amazon comes here or not,” Fry said, “Schuylkill Yards will take shape.”

Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...