Rebuild Initiative: Mayor and City Council Announce $100 Million Grant For Neighborhood Spaces
Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council announced an early Christmas present in a press conference held at the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center on Monday, November 21st.
The William Penn Foundation will award a $100 million grant to fund the city’s Rebuild initiative to revitalize neighborhood spaces that have been in disrepair for years. These spaces include libraries, recreation centers and parks located in underserved communities.
Rebuild Executive Director Nicole Westerman said no sites have been chosen as of yet for the Rebuild program. The press conference was held at the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center because the facility is one of many the city may consider for the program.
During press conference, Westerman explained that identifying neighborhoods with the greatest needs, such as Strawberry Mansion, would be part of the process of selecting areas to revitalize. Rebuild will consider physical conditions of facilities such as libraries, parks and recreation centers that have not received new equipment or repairs in years.
Westerman does not know how many sites Rebuild will choose, but they will be chosen within the next few months.
City Council is still in the planning phase for the $500 million Rebuild program. To break that down further, $300 million of that money will come in bonds, $120 million will be from foundations and private donors, $32 million will come from state and federal funds and $48 million will be from city capital funds.
Janet Haas, the President of the William Penn Foundation, said Rebuild is a once-in-a generation project for the city. She said a grant of this size is important, because the foundation was energized by the boldness of Mayor Kenney’s proposal.
Overarching values of equity, engagement and economic opportunity shared by both the foundation and City Council are the driving force of Rebuild.
Haas explained that the citywide scale of the effort is unprecedented and emphasized the importance of investing in neighborhoods citywide, especially the underserved communities. She applauded the mayor’s and City Council’s inventive approach to planning Rebuild.
“Rather than slicing up the pie as is so often done in civic life, the mayor and his team have developed a strategic, data-driven investment approach to ensure maximum resources are directed to the areas of greatest need,” Haas said.
In fact, Rebuild could potentially become a national model due to the amount of community reinvestment that would be a result of the initiative, Haas added.
Rebuild will improve infrastructure and impact communities economically by providing jobs, increasing community engagement and providing new services once the repairs are complete. Revitalizing communities will breach social barriers that isolate residents from each other.
Mayor Kenney agreed that people will come together as recreation centers, parks and libraries are repaired and rebuilt. He said people will want to volunteer more at these facilities.
“When these facilities are rebuilt, it will generate more people who will want to help,” Kenney said.
He explained that Rebuild is not just about creating capital projects, but building community and diversity in each of the 100 neighborhoods Rebuild will target. It will give children safe spaces to go to after school and provide crucial programming that supports educational achievement.
Michael DiBerardinis, Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia, described the William Penn Foundation’s commitment to the Rebuild project as a historic moment for the city.
DiBerardinis said the William Penn Foundation has made significant investments in high quality public spaces for all the residents of the city.
“I think it was that history of smart, strategic investment into our libraries, into our recreation centers, into our playgrounds, our ball fields, our swimming pools that made Rebuild possible,” DiBerardinis said.
DiBerardinis also praised Mayor Kenney’s commitment to all Philadelphia neighborhoods for making Rebuild possible.
“He was very clear about if we’re going to do something, we have to do something that reaches and touches all citizens across the city, provides the same opportunity for fairness and equity for all our young people and all our citizens,” he said.
Council President Darrell Clarke said he personally visited the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center after a man brought grievances about the facility’s state of disrepair to a City Council meeting.
He praised the recreation center volunteers who contribute their time every day under the facility’s current conditions.
Councilwoman Cindy Bass said she was a “rec center kid” growing up, so the Rebuild project is significant for her.
“I know this neighborhood very well and I know the need that exists in this community,” Bass said. “I want to start by thanking the mayor for his vision for this Rebuild initiative, for having the vision to say to all of our kids, we deserve more. We deserve better.”