Along with the new branding being announced Monday will come new names, roads, and a message of environmental friendliness.
With a tagline of “Next Starts Here,” HRP said the Bellwether District will transform the property to create opportunities for local residents
Four new city streets are being created, two of which the company said will pay homage to historic Black Philadelphians: James Forten, a Philadelphia businessperson and abolitionist, and Frances Harper, one of the first Black women to be published in the United States.
In a statement, HRP said the Bellwether District has already begun efforts to venture into Philadelphia communities and make itself known to residents by conducting outreach sessions such as coat drives and turkey donations last winter.
“The Bellwether District is a holistic, thoughtful reimagining of post-industrial property into a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable workplace for generations of people and businesses,” said Roberto Perez, HRP’s chief executive officer.
However, after more than a century of refining, the site still must undergo extensive environmental remediation.
An environmental mess
The refineries date back to the 1860s. They were purchased by Sunoco in 1988 and 1994.
Sunoco remains responsible for the legacy contamination prior to September 2012, but HRP is responsible for the pollution created by PES after September 2012.
Even before the catastrophic June 2019 explosion and fire that ultimately prompted PES to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, environmentalists and community activists had pushed for the permanent closure of the refinery complex, the city’s largest stationary source of air pollution.
The explosion was only a reminder of the long-term risks posed by the industrial complex.
It will take several years, a few hundreds of millions of dollars, and tackling 150 years’ worth of industrial pollution to clean out the environmental hazards, including buried rail cars.
HRP has said it is aware of the task at hand.
Demolition alone is projected to take four years and will include the removal of 35,000 tons of asbestos, 850,000 barrels of hydrocarbons, 100 buildings, and 950 miles of pipe, company officials told members of the public at a virtual meeting in June.
Benzene, a dangerous chemical known to cause leukemia and lymphoma, especially in children, continued to flow from the wreckage of the defunct refinery in May 2021.