South Philly refinery damaged in explosion to be turned into 1,300-acre Bellwether District

Hilco estimates the Bellwether District to create 30,000 new jobs.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Fmr. South Philly refinery to be turned into Bellwether District
"The Bellwether District will be Philly's new home for e-commerce, life sciences, and logistics leaders," the company says.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The company handling the cleanup of a South Philadelphia refinery destroyed two years ago plans to turn the industrial site into a major economic hub called the Bellwether District.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) is leading the remediation of the 1,300-acre site, which was rocked by a series of explosions in June 2019.

Artist renderings show abundant green space and a network of buildings.

"The Bellwether District will be Philly's new home for e-commerce, life sciences, and logistics leaders. It will be a global model of sustainable development and design. It will connect the world's seas, skies, rails, and roads to the people and businesses of Philadelphia," the website says.

The Chicago-based company says the Bellwether District will be one of the biggest life science campuses ever built.

"Our plan is to transform the site into a commercial hub to be shared by dozens of world-class companies that will benefit from Philadelphia's diverse workforce and strategic location with an environmentally responsible infrastructure that will be great for all Philadelphians," HRP CEO Roberto Perez says on the company's site.

Action News spoke to Jasmine Sessom, Hilco's senior vice president of corporate affairs, earlier this year.

"It will not be a refinery. That's the most important thing," said Sessoms. "We are looking forward to making a green space, and especially some sustainable initiatives."

The old Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery now has new ownership. Along with big plans to diversify the trades industry for Philadelphia youth. - Eric Moody reports:

It was on June 21, 2019, when the Philadelphia Energy Solutions' oil refinery was destroyed in a massive fire.

Refinery explosion caught on camera on June 21, 2019.

A month later, PES filed bankruptcy and shut down the 150-year-old facility.

The complex processed 335,000 barrels of crude oil daily into gasoline, jet fuel, propane, home heating oil and other products, according to PES. It started as a bulk petroleum storage facility in 1866 and began refinery operations in 1870.

The 2019 fire erupted in a tank containing a mix of butane and propane, fire officials said.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions files for bankruptcy after refinery explosion and fire. Watch this report from Action News Mornings on July 22, 2019.

PES laid off more than 1,000 workers.

Hilco purchased the property for $225 million last year.

Hilco estimates the Bellwether District to create 30,000 new jobs.

The company says that comes in phases: the project phase which will include union construction jobs; operational permanent jobs that come online with the tenants; and indirect jobs that will be created across the city and the region to support the development.

In a promotional video for the project, Mayor Jim Kenney says, "We believe this is a once in a generation opportunity to transform a vacant, blighted albatross into a sustainable, 21st-century economic engine for our city and region."