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New Beginning in South, Southwest Philly

Mon June 03, 2024 - Northeast Edition #12
Chuck MacDonald – CEG CORRESPONDENT


“It seems every time we turn around there is another piece of concrete that needs to be moved and crushed,” said Chris Bunda, site manager of James D. Morrissey Inc.
Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners
“It seems every time we turn around there is another piece of concrete that needs to be moved and crushed,” said Chris Bunda, site manager of James D. Morrissey Inc.
“It seems every time we turn around there is another piece of concrete that needs to be moved and crushed,” said Chris Bunda, site manager of James D. Morrissey Inc.   (Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners) The project will require an array of equipment, some 50 pieces in all.   (Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners) Foundations, building pads and tank slabs all need to be crushed and relocated. Much of the concrete will be used elsewhere as subbase and foundation materials for the new buildings.   (Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners) Following this deconstruction phase, James D. Morrissey Inc. of Philadelphia won the bid for the mass earthwork and surface/subsurface demolition.   (Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners) The earthwork removal on the project is the largest to be permitted in Philadelphia history.   (Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners) Nearly 70 workers for Morrissey are on site daily.   (Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners)

Government officials and community leaders are excited by a once-in-a-generation project happening a short distance from Philadelphia's central core.

Hilco Redevelopment Partners (HRP) has reimagined what the future could look like in South and Southwest Philadelphia. They have acquired a huge slice of property —1,300 acres — that was the site of the former PES Refinery are transforming it into an economic engine.

Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners

"Over the next 10 to 15 years, HRP will lead the development of state-of-the-art e-commerce, innovation and logistics business park," the company said in a statement. "The Bellwether District will reintegrate this site into the surrounding city with a 750-acre industrial campus and a 250-acre innovation campus to the north. We are expecting this project to generate 19,000 temporary and permanent jobs in Philadelphia."

The two campuses will change more than the economic environment but also the natural environment. The refinery was once responsible for 16 percent of Philadelphia's carbon emissions; instead HRP is delivering a sustainable campus that is built with future generations in mind. HRP's unique approach to redevelopment — which centers around community, environmental and economic sustainability — will be at the forefront when transforming The Bellwether District.

Setting Stage for Bellwether District

Upon acquisition, the HRP team waited no time before working to remediate and dismantle the site. The demolition of the refinery was completed in summer 2023, a year ahead of schedule.

Following this deconstruction phase, James D. Morrissey Inc. of Philadelphia won the bid for the mass earthwork and surface/subsurface demolition. Frank Puccio is the senior project manager and Chris Bunda is the site manager of Morrissey's $40 million piece of the mass earthwork and surface/subsurface demolition of more than 550 acres.

Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners

Morrissey's team will be excavating more than two million cu. yds. of earth. This earthwork removal is the largest to be permitted in Philadelphia history. Nearly all of the dirt will be relocated to other parts of the HRP property.

"Our large excavators can load trucks in under a minute," said Bunda. "Often, we are moving 10 to 12,000 cubic yards a day."

In line with HRP's commitment to resiliency and sustainability, the team will be redistributing the dirt and rock to move the entire site above the 100-year floodplain and all future buildings above the 500-year floodplain.

Moving dirt is one thing, but finding what else needs to be moved has proven challenging.

"Records from the refinery date back to the 1900s and are OK," said Bunda. "But it seems every time we turn around there is another piece of concrete that needs to be moved and crushed. Foundations, building pads and tank slabs all need to be crushed and relocated. Much of the concrete will be used elsewhere as subbase and foundation materials for the new buildings."

Morrissey also has a subcontract with BSI Construction for the first phase of the roadway and utility infrastructure, both on and off site. The work will include widening of 26th Street at Hartranft Street and new construction on Hartranft Street and Francis Harper Drive.

Transformation Is Heavy Lift

The project will require a dizzying array of equipment, some 50 pieces in all, including:

  • Two Hitachi 890 excavators with 8.5-cu.-yd. buckets
  • A Komatsu 650 excavator
  • Ten bulldozers
  • Fifteen Komatsu HM400 articulated trucks
  • Four 1968 Euclid 45-cu.-yd. belly dumps
  • Multiple cutting tools for slicing up fuel lines, storage tanks and other metal
  • Ten excavators to remove pipe and break up the concrete on the property
  • A crusher spread with 75,000 tons of recycled concrete crushed to date.

A normal project like this requires just the excavation of material. But, like cutting into a body and finding blood vessels, workers are digging into the ground and finding pipes. Lots of them. So far, 950 mi. of pipeline have been unearthed at this project.

"There's enough pipe to build a continuous line from Philadelphia to Florida," Bunda said.

Photo courtesy of Hilco Redevelopment Partners

More than 5,000 tons of steel has been cut up and recycled.

Bunda and his team are decommissioning and removing underground refinery lines, fuel lines, other product lines and utilities. His team also is tasked with installing both temporary stormwater facilities to properly handle water on the immense property. In short, the Morrissey team needs to do what is necessary to prepare the ground for the new buildings, many of which will be warehouses and multi-story construction.

Nearly 70 workers for Morrissey are on site daily.

Rain or shine, the Morrissey team is digging, removing and grading.

"HRP has an aggressive schedule for us," Bunda said. "As soon as we manage to get the ground properly prepared, their team begins to build on it. Then, they move on to another parcel on the property that is ready and start to build on that."

What's Ahead

In April, vertical construction began on the Industrial Campus. The first buildings expected to be complete before the end of the year. Furthermore, earthwork on the Innovation Campus began in the first quarter of 2024.

HRP is committed to delivering a modern redevelopment built with future generations in mind. The Bellwether District will include many sustainable features, including building infrastructure for electric vehicles, LEED-certified buildings, rooftop solar panels and landscaping to include more than 10,000 new trees to be planted on the site. CEG


Chuck MacDonald

Chuck MacDonald is an editor, blogger and freelance feature writer whose writing adventures have taken him to 48 states and 10 countries. He has been the editor for magazines on pavement construction, chemicals, insurance and missions. Chuck enjoys bicycling, kayaking and reading. He graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism. Chuck lives in Annapolis, Md. with his wife Kristen. They have seven grandchildren.


Read more from Chuck MacDonald here.





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