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High stakes development in South Philly

by Kianna Warburton

Article Title: Rethinking Redevelopment: The Future of Philly’s South Philly Refinery Site


In the absence of Michaelle, I, Erica Palan, deputy business and built editor at The Inquirer, am stepping in as your newsletter emcee for today. We have an array of interesting real estate articles to discuss, including Inga Saffron’s latest urban dispatch on the former South Philly refinery site and Jake Blumgart’s exploration of an iconic building’s future on Walnut Street. Additionally, we have a home tour, information on new apartment towers, and a #TBT for our photo quiz. So let’s dive in!

Redevelopment Worries for South Philly Refinery Site:

The Navy Yard is an area in Philadelphia that many of us plan to visit more often but rarely do due to the inconvenience of getting there. Inga Saffron, one of my esteemed colleagues, shares this sentiment and expresses concerns about the Bellwether District in her latest column. The Bellwether District is the site of the South Philly refinery that exploded in 2019 and is set to be redeveloped by Hilco Redevelopment Partners.

Hilco will be constructing two large warehouses this fall, with potential plans for additional buildings, recreation trails, life science labs, and production plants in the future. However, one significant question remains: How will people access the Bellwether District? Inga emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the district becomes a fully connected part of the city, accessible to all. She delves deeper into this critical issue, highlighting the significance of this corner of the city.

Philadelphia’s Recovery Story: A Look at Walnut Street’s Future:

Returning to work in The Inquirer’s newsroom after the COVID-19 pandemic has been a gratifying experience for me, witnessing firsthand how our city is rebounding from the crisis. While many offices remain empty, my colleague Jake Blumgart explores the potential future of an iconic building on Walnut Street.

The WCAU building, famous for its distinctive Art Deco design and perhaps more recognizable as the former location of Old Navy, may undergo a transformation. The developers are considering converting six floors of office space into 67 apartments. Although the project is still awaiting various approvals, the Preservation Alliance has expressed support for the proposed changes. One potential challenge lies in adding more windows to ensure renters have an ample supply of natural light. Through this project, Jake examines how Philadelphia is recovering and adapting in the post-pandemic era.

Real Estate Trends: The Increasing Cost of Square Footage:

Have you ever wondered how much you paid per square foot for your home? A new report by Clever Real Estate sheds light on this question and reveals some surprising trends. According to the data, local buyers in the Philadelphia metro area are now spending almost 50% more per square foot for a new home compared to five years ago.

In 2018, the median price per square foot for a new single-family home was $147. However, in 2023, buyers paid a median of $218 per square foot for a new home. With these rising costs, homeowners are reconsidering the utilization of every square inch of space. Clever Real Estate’s report prompts us to think about how we can make the most of our homes.

Spotlight: A Home Transformation in Graduate Hospital:

Irene Guo and Mark Licurse found it challenging to let go of their rowhouse in Graduate Hospital and decided to renovate instead. They visualized the home’s potential and transformed it into a more entertainment-friendly space. The couple introduced large windows and tall patio doors to maximize natural light, created a new kitchen and dining area, and added personal touches such as a custom oak bench, shelves, and a secret laundry chute.

The couple believes that furniture is akin to artwork, and they splurged on a marble dining room table and unique lamps that bring them joy every day. Their story showcases how a home can be personalized and transformed to suit one’s specific needs and preferences.

Trivia Time: The Jersey Shore Property with Hollywood Connections:

Stone Harbor’s beachfront cottages hold a special place in the hearts of many Philadelphians. One of these cottages recently sold for an astonishing $10 million and even made a brief appearance in the final scenes of the Oscar-winning movie “Philadelphia.” To test your knowledge, can you recall the price the property fetched the last time it was sold in 1993?


As the real estate landscape continues to evolve, it is essential to keep a close eye on important areas of redevelopment and explore how the city is recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Philadelphia’s South Philly refinery site and Walnut Street’s potential transformation provide valuable insights into the future of the city. Additionally, understanding the increasing cost of square footage and witnessing home transformations, such as the one in Graduate Hospital, allows us to appreciate the possibilities within our own properties.

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