Unprecedented program aims to 'Rebuild' Philadelphia, serve as national community investment model

09/29/2017 07:30 pm ET Updated Oct 09, 2017

Yesterday the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) concluded its annual conference in New Orleans, bringing together more than 7,000 park and recreation professionals, citizen advocates and industry suppliers from around the country.

The premier annual meeting of the park and recreation community, over a three-day period conference attendees were presented networking opportunities, hundreds of education sessions and the industry's largest trade show showcasing the products and services of nearly 400 exhibitors.

Packed full of inspirational and innovative education sessions and workshops, NRPA offered more than 200 education sessions covering a variety of topics including leadership and management, public relations, marketing, recreation programming, and customer service.

Featured as part of last year’s Innovative Education sessions, Shawn McCaney — now William Penn Foundation’s Executive Director, presented the City of Philadelphia’s Rebuild Community Infrastructure (Rebuild) initiative — From ‘Reimagining the Civic Commons to Rebuilding Civic Infrastructure.’

“Philadelphia has gained national attention in recent years because of the renaissance of Center City, which was partly driven by a major investment in downtown public amenities, such as revitalized parks, squares, and new riverfront trails and public spaces,” McCaney said.

“But for the city as a whole to thrive, these kinds of high quality public amenities must reach all of the city’s residents,” said McCaney, who also serves as William Penn Foundation’s Director of Creative Communities and National Initiatives.

An innovative public/private partnership between the City of Philadelphia, William Penn Foundation, Knight Foundation, Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, Rebuild is intended to reimagine civic assets and triggered a $500 million citywide effort to reinvest in parks and recreation infrastructure.

“Park improvement projects are more than worth their investment,” said Barbara Tulipane, President and CEO of the NRPA.

“Not only are the amenities something community members already deserve, but improving a park helps improve the local economy and the health and wellbeing of local residents. We’ve seen this time and time again in communities across the country including in our own Parks Build Community projects that build or improve parks in areas of need,” said Tulipane.

Rebuild focuses on promoting equity and fairness across Philadelphia, seeking to revitalize community spaces, engage and empower communities, and promote economic opportunity.

Where possible, Rebuild is assessing investment opportunities in neighborhoods that are growing and present potential economic growth, ideally serving and stabilizing the community. With more than 400 neighborhood-serving parks, libraries, recreation centers, and playgrounds, the City of Philadelphia has spent less than most big American cities on maintenance and improvements of parks and recreation centers.

“I am extremely grateful to the Foundation not only for this overwhelming vote of confidence in Rebuild, but also for all the insights and support they supplied along the way to get us here. This program would not be what it is without their expertise,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

Throughout the month, and over the coming weeks, Rebuild has engaged potential contractors and suppliers, focused on incorporating residents into the partially taxpayer-funded campaign.

“Now that the legislation has passed, our team has spent the summer preparing to launch a first round of projects, which we expect to announce before the end of the year,” said David Gould, Rebuild’s Deputy Director of Community Engagement and Communications.

"As a potential Project User non-profit, it was great to see a packed house with Philly based contractors, particularly MBEs and WBEs,” said George Matysik, Executive Director of Philadelphia Parks Alliance.

“Rebuild will provide unique opportunities for community-based non-profits like us to partner with contractors like the folks here tonight. This just further shows Rebuild is about so much more than bricks and mortar, it's about investing in the community themselves," said Matysik.

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