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William Penn Foundation giving $100 million to remake city parks, libraries, and rec centers

Nov 22, 2016

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney greets the William Penn Foundation's Janet Haas during a news conference back in March. The foundation has awarded the city up to $100 million towards Kenney’s plan to remake the city’s parks, libraries and rec centers.

Mayor Kenney's bold initiative to revitalize the city's parks, libraries, and recreation centers as a way to fight poverty and strengthen neighborhoods is receiving a major lift - up to $100 million from the William Penn Foundation.

The grant is the largest in the foundation's history, nearly four times bigger than any it has given before. In a single swoop, it covers one-fifth of the overall cost of the program, known as Rebuild.

"We want to provide opportunity for all Philadelphia citizens, from the youngest children all the way to the most senior citizens, to come together, to get to know one another," said Janet Haas, chair of the foundation's board of directors. "Particularly in these times in our country, it's even more important."

The gift, which will be formally announced at a news conference Monday, is a significant vote of confidence from the city's largest philanthropy at a critical time in the launch of Rebuild. City officials are deep in planning the project and are expected to seek City Council approval of the first of three $100 million bonds early next year.

The program will mean improvements ranging from face-lifts to brand-new facilities at scores of parks, recreation centers, and libraries - city assets that have fallen into deep disrepair due to budget constraints.

Some parks haven't seen new equipment or substantial upkeep of the old for more than 20 years. And neighborhood libraries last received new paint, lights, and computers two decades ago. Eight branches remained closed last summer because the air-conditioning did not work.