(Photo by Flickr user City of Philadelphia, used under a Creative Commons license)
The City of Philadelphia and regional funders are placing a $500 million bet on parks, libraries and rec centers that serve as anchors in the city’s most under-resourced neighborhoods.
We’ve been told to think of Rebuild as an investment in equity. The undertaking, which seeks to restore the city’s long-ignored civic assets, was the recipient of a $100 million grant from William Penn Foundation late last year — the largest in the foundation’s history.
But it all started with Reimagining the Civic Commons, a Knight Foundation initiative in Philadelphia that has since expanded to the foundation’s communities across the country, including Chicago.
Chicago’s parks were the subject of a recent New York Times story — rather, the investment that city is making in them — but you can’t leave Philadephia out of the national civic assets narrative. That said, Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman also toured “crumbling libraries and rec centers in North and West Philadelphia,” starting in Hunting Park, where he reports “crime has plummeted 89 percent” since revitalization efforts began in 2009.
“We want every Philadelphian to be able to walk to a place that says, ‘You are worth it,’” Parks Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell told the paper.
But aesthetics are just the beginning. Once the city’s parks, rec centers and libraries are properly restored, it will take a concerted effort among the city’s nonprofits to introduce quality programming to facilities.
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