Rebuild Philadelphia’s 66% Diverse Participation Rate for Contracts is an Example for the Rest of the City


Rebuild Philadelphia’s 66% Diverse Participation Rate for Contracts is an Example for the Rest of the City

Philadelphia has over 400 neighborhood parks, recreation centers, and libraries and about 90 percent of them need renovations and maintenance. Like many cities across the country that face similar challenges, Philadelphia wrestled with how to equitably make much-needed investments in these facilities. To accomplish that goal, the City launched Rebuild in 2016, a $400+ million capital program that is making data-informed decisions on where to invest public space repair and restoration funding while ensuring black, brown, and women-owned businesses play a significant role in the revitalization effort. The William Penn Foundation is supporting this effort with a $100 million funding commitment.

In 2021, Rebuild unveiled newly completed projects such as the East Poplar and Miles Mack Playgrounds. As momentum continues with 11 projects in or preparing for construction and another 23 with critical interim improvements completed, we are encouraged to see that 66% of Rebuild’s construction and professional services contracts since inception were with diverse businesses. Exceeding its inclusivity and diversification goals through intentional programming and support, Rebuild is proving to be a successful model for other city agencies, institutions, and the private sector to replicate in terms of engaging minority-owned-businesses (MBE) or woman-owned-businesses (WBE) in their work.



This is significant because much like the inequities seen in access to high-quality public spaces for marginalized and economically disenfranchised communities, MBEs and WBEs have historically lacked representation in the design and construction sectors. As Raphael Bostic, President of the Atlanta Fed, has said “A commitment to an inclusive society also means a commitment to an inclusive economy.”

In the spirit of President Bostic’s statement, Rebuild has prioritized economic inclusion by investing dollars and resources in the form of small business supports programming as an intentional approach to contracting that increases equitable and diverse participation.

Rebuild Ready
Rebuild Ready is an impressive programmatic model of how government, nonprofit, and private sectors can collaborate to create positive change. The 12–14-week training program allows Philadelphia-based design and construction businesses to apply for a spot within a cohort of other businesses where they work together on the skills and criteria needed to bid for and win work on Rebuild projects.

Rebuild Ready is made possible through a partnership with The Enterprise Center and Surety Bond Associates that are providing technical assistance focused on business management in the construction industry, including:

  • Estimating, bid preparation, and contract negotiation
  • Business planning
  • Capital access
  • Cash flow management
  • Finance and accounting
  • Project management
  • Risk management
  • Legal
  • Human Resources
  • Networking opportunities


One of the 109 graduates of Rebuild Ready is Robin Miller, Principal of the Philadelphia-based Miller Design Group. Upon completion of the program, she was awarded a contract to design the lighting for Ziehler Playground’s $4 million project. A Germantown native, Miller implemented an essential component of public space work within her process that is emphasized within Rebuild Ready – community engagement. She welcomed input from community members who frequent the park to ensure their most pressing lighting and safety needs were addressed in her work. Click here to read more about Robin Miller’s road through the Rebuild Ready program.

Emerging Vendors Program
The Emerging Vendors Program (EVP) is a great example of how removing barriers to access for under-represented populations can be accomplished. Bidding and being awarded government contracts can be a difficult undertaking, as it requires businesses to have a myriad of certifications that take years and a significant amount of dollars to obtain.

By joining this program, populations that make up a very small percentage of awarded contracts are given the opportunity to work on Rebuild projects while working toward their certifications through the program. Support for businesses embarking on this process include assistance with:

  • Becoming certified and registered as a minority-owned-business (MBE) or woman-owned-business (WBE)
  • Meeting bonding and insurance requirements
  • Accessing capital and financing
  • Developing bids and managing cash flow
  • Accessing technical assistance and back-office supports


Through this intentional approach, the program aims to build a pipeline for diverse design, construction, and architecture businesses working on its projects and setting them up for success to win other government works opportunities following the completion of their certifications. Businesses advancing through the program can add their work on Rebuild projects to their portfolio and show they have hands on experience doing government contracted work. 

As a public space funder, the Foundation is working to ensure equity is at the center of the projects and organizations we support. As demonstrated by Rebuild, working toward diversity, equity, and inclusion doesn’t have to be limited to just expanding more equitable access to high quality community spaces. These projects also represent chances to break down economic barriers and create significant business development opportunities for under-represented designers, builders, and contractors, generating both social and economic wins for local communities. Rebuild and its programs highlight that cultivating diversity within government contracts is possible when individuals, businesses, neighborhoods, and communities are given the proper resources and support.

Learn More About Rebuild Programming

Learn More About WPF Public Space Funding






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