Mayor Edward G. Rendell in late March accepted a $900,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the remediation of the former Sovereign Oil site located in the American Street Enterprise and Empowerment Zone. This was the first state grant intended for the remedial work received by the City. Also highlighted during the event were the City's increasing Brownfields redevelopment activities and its active pursuit of funding under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Land Recycling Program.

The Mayor noted the steps that the City has taken to ensure the future redevelopment of contaminated land throughout Philadelphia. Late last year, the City established a multi-agency Brownfields Task Force headed by the Commerce Department, which has identified more than 40 properties for future redevelopment. The group is prioritizing sites on the basis of their redevelopment potential and the availability and qualification for state and federal funding. Furthermore, the City has proposed a line item in its FY99 Capital Budget of $150,000 specifically for local matches to federal and state Brownfield funds for sites throughout the City. Finally, in a departure from past practice, the City is aggressively seeking site control for cleanup of targeted properties. The City has already obtained sites for such purposes in the American Street and West Philadelphia Empowerment Zones and in Southwest Philadelphia and is in negotiations with end users for each of these properties. The Mayor outlined these three sites that serve as showcases for future Brownfields activity in the City.

The first project combines two abandoned properties in the 2000 block of South 71st Street. In February, the City procured one of the parcels which has been abandoned since 1986. The proposed end user is in the process of acquiring the other. The City is working with a growing Philadelphia manufacturing business to retain its current workforce of 70, and build a new manufacturing facility costing close to one million dollars that would add 30 new jobs.

Further along in the process are two adjacent vacant properties at the corner of Merion and Girard Avenues. Both are located within the State-designated West Parkside Enterprise Zone and the federal Empowerment Zone. The City is working to complete a deal with a Philadelphia-based company to build a call center costing more than two million dollars that would employ over 100 people from the neighborhood.

The third project, largest in scope of the three discussed, was the former Sovereign Oil site abandoned since 1990 after an oil spill shut down the plant. The lot once contained a used oil and antifreeze recycling facility. The City is finalizing a deal with a Philadelphia company hat will remediate and cap the site and build a new $3.5 million food warehouse and distribution facility that will ultimately employ more than 70 people. It is anticipated that the remediation will commerce this Spring.

Each project represents a different stage of the state's process for receiving funding for either environmental assessments or remediation. Director of Commerce Stephen P. Mullin stated that, "These projects demonstrate that the City is willing to take on risk by taking title to the contaminated properties. The potential economic benefit to the City far outweighs any potential downsides." He also noted that, unlike other areas of the State, most of Philadelphia's Brownfields sites are smaller industrial properties that are difficult to market. In two of the three projects, the City assembled multiple parcels to make them more attractive for development.