Groundbreaking held in Philadelphia for The Bellwether District

Groundbreaking held for The Bellwether District

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- New life is coming to the old Philadelphia refinery on the banks of the Schuylkill River. A groundbreaking was held Monday for what's being called "The Bellwether District." 

The Bellwether District is a plan to transform the old Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery into a 1,300 economic engine on the banks of the Schuylkill River.  

"We think it's going to anchor Philadelphia and really the region as a place to do commerce," Roberto Perez, the CEO of Hilco Redevelopment Partners, said.   

The refinery has been shut down since an explosion in 2019 rocked the area. It left people with a lot of questions about how this long-polluted site could ever be redeveloped. 

"As long as I've lived, this site has been the No. 1 polluter of Philadelphia, of Pennsylvania and on the East Coast," State Sen. Anthony Williams said.  

"I lived in South Philly growing up. And you would walk out and take a big whiff sometimes and wonder, 'Oh what's that?' And it was coming from here," Mayor Jim Kenney said.  

Perez said they're working with the EPA and State Department of Environmental Protection and have done a lot of remediation work at the site breaking down the old refinery. They're also cleaning polluted ground and wastewater – a process he said will continue throughout their build.  

"There's all kinds of work going on here to ensure this is a healthy, sustainable pad for folks to work in," Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said. "And most importantly, reducing emissions by 16% overall in the city."

The plan is for the Northern Innovation campus to bring a life science and R&D hub close to the city's universities. 

The southern industrial campus would be a logistics center – working with the city's port, airport and rail industries. Full development of the site could take a decade. But officials project it could bring 19,000 jobs over the next 15 years.  

"That's a lot of young men and women in our city who may be wandering without any direction into a job that makes 60, 70, 80 thousand dollars a year," Kenney said. "Nobody has to think about picking up a gun or settling an old score."

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