The John S. and James L. Knight and William Penn foundations have announced grants totaling nearly $11 million to the Fairmount Park Conservancy in support of efforts to re-imagine public spaces in Philadelphia.
Funded by grants of $5.4 million from Knight and $5.5 million from WPF, the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative will revitalize and connect libraries, parks, trails, plazas, and community centers with the aim of attracting and retaining talented workers to the region, advancing economic opportunity, boosting civic participation, and leveling the playing field between affluent communities and those in need. The conservancy will support five projects: the Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park, a collaboration between Audubon and Outward Bound to encourage leadership development and environmental stewardship; the Reading Viaduct Rail Park, a former industrial rail line that will be re-purposed by the Center City District as green public space; the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Schuylkill River Development Corporation's Bartram's Mile trail project, which will transform industrial brownfields into an urban park as part of a 750-mile trail network; the Free Library of Philadelphia and Mt. Airy USA's effort to renovate and expand the Lovett Memorial Library and Park; and the conservancy's Centennial Commons, which will transform an underutilized section of West Fairmount Park into a creative new play space.
"By connecting many of these destinations through our region's trail network, we promote social and community inclusion within and between neighborhoods across the city, unite neighborhoods that presently may stand alone, and work to ensure that Philadelphia is, indeed, a place for all Philadelphians," said Shawn McCaney, director of the Creative Communities program at the William Penn Foundation.
"Every city has a collection of civic places with the potential to add to their success in a big way. In many cases, however, these places are siloed from one another and in competition for dollars," said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. "Created over many decades, they are aging, saddled with legacy systems, and attracting too little investment to adjust to today's changing demographics and community needs. Philadelphia is ideally positioned to help tackle these challenges; it is a city full of civic innovators eager to demonstrate the added value of a connected civic commons."