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Former Philadelphia Coke Site set to be rezoned for warehousing operation

According to Henon’s chief of staff Courtney Voss, the property was recently purchased by Bridge Development, which plans to build two warehouse facilities on the property.

The former tar decanter area of the Philadelphia Coke Company plant. | Photo taken from an EPA Environmental Indicator Inspection Report. Photo by Michael Baker, Jr.

The office of City Councilperson Bobby Henon has announced plans to rezone the site of the former Philadelphia Coke Company plant via ordinance to allow for a new warehousing complex to be built on the northwestern side of the parcel. The site is located at 4501 Richmond St. and is bounded by the Delaware River and Buckius, Orthodox, Richmond, Lefevre and Garden streets. The southeastern side of the parcel, which borders the Delaware River, will also be rezoned to allow for the neighborhood’s planned riverfront park

According to Henon’s chief of staff Courtney Voss, the property was recently purchased by Bridge Development, which plans to build two warehouse facilities on the property.

Voss said that in 2015 city planners recommended the site, which is currently zoned for residential mixed use, be rezoned industrial. The planners made the decision, Voss said, because of potential contaminants in the soil from its previous years as in use by the Philadelphia Coke Company, which was in operation from 1929 to 1982. Coke is a coal byproduct used in the steelmaking process and the manufacturing of it is associated with various pollution concerns.

“The previous uses that were on that site,” Voss said, “makes it not conducive to something like residential [zoning].”

Despite the concern over soil contamination, the EPA reports that a whopping 30,000 tons of highly contaminated soils were removed and disposed on the 63-acre property, while additional “mildly contaminated” soils were remediated from 1982 to 1988. Contaminants of concern were volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons detected in the groundwater.

Yvonne Stephens, who runs the Bridesburg Community Action Alliance, said that she was still looking to hear more about what the community had to say about the project. So far, there hasn’t been much of a consensus for or against the development.

“Something like this is probably better than housing,” she specified, though, in a phone call with the Star. “I hear that from everybody.”

Stephens noted that residents who live along the section of Garden Street that borders the property “are not for it.”

A community benefits agreement, which is a legal document signed by developers and registered community organizations like the BCAA, would likely be signed in the event the warehouse gets built, Voss said. Stephens was unsure of what specific terms she’d like to see in the CBA at the time of the Star’s phone call.

“We’re still going over everything,” she said. “We’re trying to basically hear everything from the community.”

Interestingly, the parcel was part of a land deal struck to bring the Dietz and Watson facility back to Philadelphia in 2014. 

“The effort to get Dietz and Watson back to Philadelphia involved lots of moving pieces and parts but generally, the property that they acquired included a portion of land that was restricted for park use,” Voss said in a statement to the Star. “In order to make the Dietz deal possible, the City and State essentially agreed to a swap of land which removed the restricted park land from the Dietz parcel and added it instead to the Coke parcel area.”

Voss said the remapping legislation is currently scheduled for final passage just before Christmas.

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