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Let’s Keep Rebuild Building

At a time when Philadelphia is facing many challenges, this year the city’s Rebuild Initiative has reason to celebrate as it builds significant momentum toward its goal of investing $500 million in brand new or revitalized high-quality parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, and libraries. These investments shine through as downpayments on a brighter, more equitable, and thriving future for the city and its people, and are examples of the kind of momentum we need to build on to drive the city forward. We need to keep Rebuild building through the next mayoral administration.

The benefits of this historic investment program cannot be oversold. With the program now in high gear, Rebuild is one step closer to the City’s goal of 80 percent of low-income households living within a mile of a recently renovated public space by the end of this calendar year.

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, Mayor Kenney launched Rebuild in 2016, a $500 million capital program fueled by the sweetened beverage tax. Rebuild is making community and data-informed decisions on where to invest public space repair and restoration funding while ensuring minority and women-owned businesses play a significant role in the revitalization effort.


Heitzman Recreation Center 5.4.23


At the William Penn Foundation we believe that high quality parks, recreation centers, and libraries are essential ingredients for thriving communities. We are supporting Rebuild with a $100 million funding commitment, the single largest grant in Foundation history and one of the largest private investments in public space in the country. This investment supports much needed improvements and repairs at the 72 City Council approved sites across the city and will enable healthy and safe recreation and play, learning, and community-building.

This size investment in the city’s public spaces, and by extension in its people, is the first of its kind in Philadelphia history. Make no mistake, implementing a program like this has taken time and a lot of effort, but Rebuild has hit its stride. In spite of COVID-related delays and rising construction costs, Rebuild is on track to deliver on all 72 approved locations. Rebuild’s momentum is growing, with nearly $300 million in committed or expended funds and 15 completed sites, over 14 set to cut the ribbon, and more than 20 moving into construction this year alone. When Philadelphia dreamed of Rebuild, this is what was envisioned. In 2023, Rebuild has already completed the Frank Glavin Playground in Port Richmond and most recently celebrated its first major library groundbreaking at Kingsessing Library, which first opened its doors more than a century ago and will now receive a $7 million makeover. Kingsessing is just one of 12 Free Library sites set to receive over $50 million dollars in improvements.


 Rebuild Parkside Fields Groundbreaking


Rebuild is also a national model for inclusive growth. Through intentional programming, contracting and support, Rebuild has exceeded its own goals for inclusivity and diversification with 45.5% of total hours worked to date by women and people of color and 65.4% of committed contract dollars awarded to minority and women-owned businesses.

Rebuild projects are a real changemaker for Philadelphia families. For example, children near Cobbs Creek playground will enjoy a beautiful, safe place to play after years of walking by a playground with no swings. The reopening of Chew Field marks a new era for youth sports in South Philly, with state-of-the-art athletic fields that make local teams like the South Philly Sharks proud. And in communities across the city, neighborhood library branches will once again be world class places of learning, with both physical improvements and resources to provide residents with dependable service each week.


Cobbs Creek Nature Playground Ribbon Cutting 5.31.23


While Rebuild was conceived and born out of the Kenney administration, the systemic issues it addresses do not go away once Mayor Kenney leaves office. Mayor Kenney, the William Penn Foundation, and others have committed the funds necessary to complete the first group of 72 sites. We strongly encourage the next Mayor to continue investing in this program to help build a better future for Philadelphia.