Yesterday, March 16, Fairmount Park Conservancy announced that the The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and William Penn Foundation are investing $11 million into its “Reimagining the Civic Commons” initiative.
The initiative will fund a series of large-scale projects in public spaces across the city and track whether they help attract and keep talented workers, advance economic opportunity, encourage residents to become more engaged in shaping their communities, and begin to level the playing field between more affluent communities and those in need.
“Emboldened by Knight Foundation and the William Penn Foundation, Philadelphia will spend the next few years ‘Reimagining Our Civic Commons’—and learning if parks, open space, libraries and recreation centers can reverse this trend towards economic and social segregation,” wrote Kathryn Ott Lovell, executive director of the Fairmount Conservancy, on the Knight Foundation’s Blog.
“Can urban parks once again become democratizing agents that create not just equity, but connection, to each other and to our natural habitat?”
Knight Foundation is committing $5.4 million to the project. William Penn Foundation is investing $5.5 million, adding to its previous support of $7 million.
Fairmount Park Conservancy will use the funding to convene five Philadelphia organizations and advance their projects (descriptions via press release):
- The Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park – A unique educational collaboration between Audubon Pennsylvania and Outward Bound, to inspire leadership development and environmental stewardship at the East Fairmount Park Reservoir, adjacent to the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood;
- Reading Viaduct Rail Park – a former industrial rail line that will be repurposed by the Center City District and Friends of the Rail Park as a green, public space, rising from ground level onto bridges that cross over three city streets;
- Bartram’s Mile Trail Project – A trail and greenway project, by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, along the lower Schuylkill River that will transform industrial brownfields into an urban park as part of “the Circuit,” the region’s 750-mile trail network.
- Lovett Memorial Library and Park – The renovation and expansion of an existing library, by The Free Library of Philadelphia and Mt Airy U.S.A which will inspire community participation;
- Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Centennial Commons – The transformation of an underutilized section of West Fairmount Park into a creative new playspace for the Parkside community. Led by the Fairmount Park Conservancy.
In addition, Fairmount Park Conservancy will serve as lead for the “Civic Commons Collective,” a new effort to bring together the project partners for collaboration on research, programming and advocacy. According to Lovell, the collaborative will test whether revitalized and connected civic assets can foster engagement, retain productive citizens and ensure the long-term prosperity of our city.
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