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June 24, 2017

Philly's $500 million Rebuild initiative awaits mayor's signature

Council approves the plan to revitalize city parks, libraries and rec centers

Development Parks and Recreation
Philadelphia Playground GEORGE WIDMAN/AP

Children play on modern-design playground equipment at Franklin Square.

Mayor Jim Kenney's $500 million plan to revitalize more than 400 parks, libraries and recreational centers throughout Philadelphia passed in a 16-1 City Council vote Thursday.

Council approved an ordinance that authorizes a shared services agreement between the city and the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development to finance the Rebuild initiative through $300 million in bonds. The ordinance passed through council's Committee of the Whole last week.

The effort would upgrade public rec centers, libraries and parks in the city and its neighborhoods, where Kenney said this week they are needed the most.

"Those spaces are more than just buildings or structures. They are safe havens for kids, places where they can play sports or participate in summer camp," Kenney said Thursday in a statement.

The effort can also revive whole neighborhoods, he said.

"It will require contractors to meet hardline minority and women participation rates, and hire a percentage of workers locally – all of which puts individuals to work in good-paying jobs and puts money back into our local economy," he said. "I want to thank City Council for passing this legislation and moving Rebuild forward. I intend on signing this ordinance as soon as it hits my desk.”

Under the legislation, each Rebuild proposal must be submitted to a Project Review Team put in charge of assessing budgets and contractors for each job.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Councilman David Oh provided the lone dissenting vote Thursday.

Along with the $300 million in bonds, funds also include a $100 million grant from the William Penn Foundation and state and federal grants.

The initiative is one of several proposals set to draw funding from the city's sugar-sweetened beverage tax, which council passed last summer to offset the city's bond program.

A panel of Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judges upheld the tax last week after it faced an appeal from the American Beverage Association and other opponents. The Rebuild initiative had been on hold until the litigation was resolved.

City officials say the levy is expected to raise about $92 million annually.