Many people don’t know this, but the Port of Philadelphia is the largest port in the U.S. for the import of fresh produce. It is, also, the port where the majority of the country’s winter produce from Chile comes in and is the only east coast port for Canada during the wintertime. These facts make it imperative for the port to have a large and modern facility to handle the incoming (and outgoing) produce. So, the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, as it is called, is moving from an outdated facility in South Philadelphia to a large, new market and terminal in Southwest Philadelphia. The ribbon cutting ceremony will be Friday and the market and terminal will open for business on April 3rd. The old market, built in 1959, was a mix of warehouses just east of the Sports Complex. It was outdated and cramped inside, but took up acres of land because of its layout. The new market promises to make the transport of produce faster and healthier, with more room inside, but a little less space outside, and with modern technology.
The new Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, located on Essington Avenue, will be the largest produce terminal in the United States, and the most modern. It will cover 700,000 square feet, and will house operations for 26 merchants. It is being developed by O’Neill Properties with a mix of public funding from the state and federal governments. The land it is on is owned by the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority and will be leased to O’Neill for 40 years. The technology will be state-of-the-art particularly because of the ability to avoid breaking the “cold chain”. The facility will be equipped with refrigerated containers used to transport the produce to avoid any thawing. This is a new concept that currently isn’t being done yet with other produce terminals in the country, and it prevents spoiling, which obviously saves money and prevents food borne illness. The facility will, also, be equipped with wi-fi and will have a special “trading room”, where merchants will buy and sell produce to customers around North America, thus setting the prices of many types and items of produce. It will be open to the public, so that local restauranteurs and grocery store owners, as well as, anyone else can tour the 26 merchants’ spaces.
This is another development that has enormous macroeconomic importance for the city and region. The new terminal helps ensure that the Port of Philadelphia will be unrivaled in handling produce and will maintain those distribution jobs. But, it also will help attract food processing plants to the city, and particularly Southwest Philadelphia, where new, low-skilled jobs in low pollution industries are necessary for the low-income residents there. The terminal, also, is a huge plus for restauranteurs who will have access to perhaps the most diverse mix of produce in the country. The market could even attract some tourists because of its huge variety and wholesale prices, kind of like a no-frills Reading Terminal Market. And, also, it helps ensure lower prices for produce for people in the Delaware Valley, because we would get the imported produce from the source. As if all that isn’t enough, it frees up land east of the Sports Complex for new port facilities and for new recreational and entertainment attractions across the street from Lincoln Financial Field. So, all in all, it is a very important development for Philadelphia in many ways.
You can look at the PWPM website at the link above, and look at pictures and renderings I’ve found of it below.