A Chicago firm is about to make its mark on South Philly's refinery site

A Chicago firm is about to make its mark on South Philly's refinery site

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Philadelphia on January 31, 2020.

The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in Philadelphia on January 31, 2020. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

A Chicago-based redevelopment firm is about to make its mark on Philadelphia.

On Thursday, a federal bankruptcy judge confirmed the $252 million sale of the sprawling shuttered South Philadelphia refinery site to Hilco Redevelopment Partners, a firm which has promised "billions of dollars of investment into the site to transform the debtors' business from a destroyed refinery complex to a mixed-use industrial site."

Hilco was selected from more than a dozen companies that lobbied for the refinery's 1,300 acres, Philadelphia's largest available commercial real estate parcel. The firm, which has experience repurposing old industrial properties for new uses elsewhere, has vowed to move quickly to clean up the heavily contaminated site of South Philly's 150-year-old petroleum refinery.

While formalized plans for the land have not been made available, city officials have called the new prospects for the refinery site "exciting," as the property will be less-dependent upon a single industry that can fall prey to boom-and-bust cycles.

Currently, Hilco is redeveloping the former Sparrows Point steel mill in Baltimore, a 3,100-acre waterfront site, into an industrial site called Tradepoint Atlantic. The mixed-use site's warehouse tenants include Amazon.com, Under Armour Inc., FedEx, Volkswagen and Harley-Davidson.

The firm is also revamping several old power plant sites, including the proposed L Street Station waterfront property in South Boston. The reimagined site of the former power station will feature housing, retail spaces, a hotel, and space for the arts, according to the company's vision for the land.

Last year, Hilco bought two closed coal plants in New Jersey with plans to redevelop them into industrial ventures.

In Philadelphia, the less-intensive industrial use of the massive fuel complex comes as welcome news to environmental and community activists, who have long rallied against the oil refinery. The site, which has been used for refining oil since the 1860s, will first need extensive environmental remediation before construction takes place.

However, it's still possible that Hilco could lease some part of the refinery site to operate as a fuel-production facility. The massive June 2019 fire at the complex left one of its two refineries undamaged.

(Staff writer Andrew Maykuth contributed to this article.)

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