A Chicago-based redevelopment company is poised to take over a South Philadelphia refinery that has remained shuttered ever since a fire and series of explosions leaked toxic chemicals into the air in 2019.
Hilco Redevelopment Partners placed the winning $240 million bid for the 1,300-acre Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery at auction last Friday, according to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing obtained Wednesday. The company made the purchase through a limited liability company.
In a statement, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said the city welcomes Hilco’s winning bid.
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“Though many challenges and years of work lie ahead, we are optimistic that the firm can develop this site in way that supports the core values in the City’s recent report summarizing the work of the Refinery Advisory Group: a diverse range of uses on the site that put the public’s safety as a top priority, has a more positive impact on the environment, engages meaningfully with the surrounding communities, and contributes significantly to the region’s economy,” Kenney said.
On its website, Hilco Redevelopment Partners says it specializes in “finding, redeveloping and reimagining” large industrial properties as “state of the state-of-the-art warehouses, fulfillment centers, and other industrial facilities located near major transportation hubs, ports, and other strategic infrastructure assets…”
The company has properties in New Jersey, Massachusetts and other locations. It redeveloped a former steel mill along the Chesapeake Bay and converted it into a port and logistics center.
However, Hilco has not revealed its plans for the South Philadelphia site. The company could not immediately be reached for comment.
Though no one was killed, the June 2019 refinery fire and explosions released thousands of pounds of hydrofluoric acid into the air and forced Philadelphia Energy Solutions into bankruptcy.
Residents in the area have for years reported health concerns due to emissions from the site.
“It is clear that this plant has poisoned and killed enough people already,” the Rev. Gregory Holston said last week as a group of residents took a bus to New York to protest at the bankruptcy auction.
Activists hope the site can be turned into a source of renewable energy. “Solar energy, wind power – anything but fossil fuels,” said Mark Clinton, who lives in the area and said friends of his have respiratory illnesses caused by emissions from the refinery.
The refinery, which opened a year after the Civil War ended, is the largest on the East Coast and employed some 1,000 workers.
A hearing to confirm the sale of the site to Hilco Redevelopment Partners is scheduled for February.