Hilco Redevelopment Partners broke ground on Oct. 16 on the first phase of vertical construction at the site, which is promising residents a state-of-the-art innovation, e-commerce and logistics campus.
The groundbreaking also signaled the completion of demolition at the former refinery, which was shut down after an explosion in 2019. The site also suffered a two-alarm fire in 2021 during the cleanup process.
“When our team arrived here in Philadelphia, we did not see a former refinery, we saw what I believe to be the most strategic piece of real estate east of the Mississippi, if not in the entire United States,” said HRP CEO Roberto Perez. “We went all-in on Philly and have made a significant investment, one we would have not made if it wasn’t for the diverse labor force here in Philadelphia, and the history of the commonwealth’s and city’s track records of making the necessary investments in its important infrastructure assets. We believe the Bellwether District will expand these capabilities and anchor Philadelphia as the place to do commerce in the region.”
Officials said the completion of demolition at the former refinery has resulted in a 16 percent reduction in emissions in Philadelphia. The site will be home to a 14-million-square-foot campus, divided into two main areas, which will include 250 acres dedicated to innovation and 750 acres for industrial/logistics facilities.
“The Bellwether District will act as a driver of stability for one of the most economically vulnerable areas of Philadelphia, transforming an obsolete industrial site into a sustainable clean hydrogen-powered 21st-century economic engine,” said Mayor Kenney. “We trust that with HRP’s successful track record of mindful, climate resilient and sustainable redevelopment this new campus will contribute greatly to the long-term social, economic and environmental health of our city and our South and Southwest Philadelphia neighborhoods.”
The groundbreaking ceremony drew high-ranking elected officials and business leaders from all over the state including Gov. Josh Shapiro.
“Pennsylvania has the opportunity to be an economic leader and drive innovation on a global scale, and the transformative redevelopment of the Bellwether District is a testament to what we can accomplish when we make strategic investments, harness our skilled workforce and work together,” said Shapiro. “Our commonwealth is already a leader in growing industries like logistics and biotech, and this historic investment to build a new, sustainable community in Philadelphia will cement our position for generations to come while improving the lives of Pennsylvanians in the city and throughout the region. Under my administration, the commonwealth will continue to be a partner in supporting developments like the Bellwether District, along with our world-class academic institutions and our skilled workforce, to plant a flag and position Pennsylvania as a leader for decades to come.”
Shapiro was joined by Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, U.S. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda, Sen. Anthony Williams, City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson and Laborers District Council Business Manager Ryan M. Boyer.
According to officials, the project promises to deliver residents of South and Southwest Philadelphia a future with a cleaner environment.
“I am excited to see a new day for the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery and I want to thank Hilco Redevelopment Partners for transforming this land into the new Bellwether District,” said Johnson, who represents the South Philadelphia area where the Bellwether District is located. “This is an exciting project that will serve as an economic hub in the Greater Philadelphia region. The demolition of the former refinery has already created over a thousand union construction jobs and the construction of new buildings on the site will mean even more work for unions in Philadelphia.”
The development of the Bellwether District is projected to create 19,000 direct permanent jobs and nearly 28,000 direct construction jobs over the next 10-15 years.
Scanlon touted the valuable partnership already forged among the Bellwether District, Philadelphia Works and the Center for Economic Opportunities reentry program as a result of a $1 million Community Project Funding award she secured in 2022.
“As we work to ensure our regional economy grows, it’s critical we extend the benefits of this growth to the communities that live and work in rapidly developing areas,” Scanlon said. “Transitional work programs like the one offered at the Bellwether District are one way to ensure Philadelphia residents are able to participate in the economic growth of our region, and I look forward to seeing Hilco Redevelopment Partners continue to engage the community in Southwest Philadelphia as this project progresses.”