Hilco Redevelopment Partners Breaks Ground on Vertical Construction at The Bellwether District
As Vertical Construction Begins on the 1,300-Acre Site in South Philadelphia, Leaders Gather to Celebrate Redevelopment’s Generational Impact
October 16, 2023 – Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) broke ground today on the first phase of vertical construction on The Bellwether District’s 1,300-acre South Philadelphia site. Governor Josh Shapiro, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, U.S. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda, Mayor James Kenney, Senator Anthony Williams, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, and Laborers District Council Business Manager Ryan M. Boyer and were among the elected officials and business and community leaders joining HRP to celebrate the continued transformation of the obsolete industrial site into a state-of-the-art innovation, e-commerce, and logistics campus. The project promises to deliver South and Southwest Philadelphia a future with a cleaner environment, more economic opportunity for Philadelphians and, ultimately, a stronger community.
Demolition of the former Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery is now substantially complete, resulting in a 16% reduction in emissions in Philadelphia. The former refinery site will be home to a 14-million-square-foot campus, divided into two main areas: 250 acres dedicated to Innovation and 750 acres for Industrial/Logistics facilities. The Bellwether District is now poised to transform Philadelphia’s innovation ecosystem, building on the life sciences and research infrastructure in nearby University City and bringing supply chain logistics and advanced manufacturing to this strategically located site near Philadelphia International Airport and PhilaPort.
“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.”
The development of The Bellwether District is projected to create 19,000 direct permanent jobs and nearly 28,000 direct construction jobs over a 10- to 15-year timeline, serving as a driver of economic stability for South and Southwest Philadelphia, the City, and the entire region. Today’s groundbreaking marks the first phase of vertical construction on the site’s Logistics campus, where Lots 15 and 16 will be home to two industrial buildings totaling approximately one million square feet.
“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 Governor 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.”
“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.”
“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 Councilmember Johnson (Second District), 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.”
Ryan M. Boyer also spoke to the critical role of union labor in the success of the project. “When the refinery closed, more than 1,000 people lost their jobs. HRP Philly’s redevelopment of this location will replace that loss in an unimaginable order of magnitude,” said Boyer. “It will provide livable wages to our members and their families, creating a more vibrant and stable economy for the City.”
HRP is investing in local workforce development programs to diversify the workforce pipeline in Philadelphia, helping employers access existing skilled workers and providing training to the workers of tomorrow entering the trades. HRP-sponsored apprenticeship and internship programs are creating a pipeline for young Philadelphians – giving them the tools and resources to access job opportunities.
“Unlocking the true potential of communities through thoughtful redevelopment, Hilco Redevelopment Partners is a beacon of transformation and progress,” said Senator Williams. “With their creative vision and commitment to revitalization, HRP breathes new life into neglected spaces, paving the way for a brighter future. Their innovative approach and dedication to community collaboration makes them an invaluable ally in shaping a better world.”
Congresswoman Scanlon touted the valuable partnership already forged between 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,” said Rep. Scanlon. “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.”
Representing the Biden-Harris administration, Solicitor Nanda spoke to the importance of the government and the private sector partnering on job-creating initiatives.
“The Bellwether District project is a fantastic example of public and private partnerships done right,” said Solicitor Nanda. “This is what Build Back Better is all about – creating good jobs with family-sustaining wages right here at home.”
Also joining The Bellwether District team to mark this milestone were economic development and civic leaders from Philadelphia and officials from all levels of government, including Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger, U.S. Department of Commerce Regional Economic Development Administration Director Linda Cruz-Carnall; representatives for U.S. Senators Bob Casey, U.S. Senator John Fetterman and Congressman Dwight Evans; and leaders from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Chambers of Commerce representing Philadelphia’s diverse business communities.
About Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP):
HRP is a vertically integrated real estate investment and redevelopment company that re-imagines, remediates, and redevelops obsolete industrial sites across the United States with a uniquely holistic approach to development that prioritizes economic, community and environmental sustainability. HRP’s redevelopment expertise ranges from modern logistics and distribution facilities to urban, mixed-use projects, and innovation ecosystems. HRP strives to transform not only properties, but also the communities surrounding them through a comprehensive approach to community engagement, environmental sustainability, and economic development.