PHILADELPHIA – Rebuilding Community Infrastructure (Rebuild) – the City of Philadelphia’s initiative to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to improve parks, recreation centers, playgrounds, and libraries across the city – is the recipient of a $125,000 grant from The Patricia Kind Family Foundation. The grant will support the community engagement and design process for improvements at Vare Recreation Center. The grant will also release $62,500 in matching funds from the William Penn Foundation as part of its historic commitment of up to $100 million for Rebuild.
“We are so grateful for the generosity and vision of The Patricia Kind Family Foundation and its trustees,” said Nicole Westerman, the executive director of Rebuild. “Vare is a perfect example of why Rebuild is needed and why we’re working to bring even more resources to the program. Every dollar raised will allow us to bring more improvements to communities that have been waiting for far too long.”
Of the 64 projects that have been approved so far for Rebuild, Vare is one of four that have been selected to move forward this year using funding from grants and the City’s FY2018 capital budget. Most of the other projects cannot start until the Philadelphia Beverage Tax has been upheld by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The majority of Rebuild’s budget will come from bond proceeds that will be repaid by the tax.
“We are thrilled to support Rebuild’s plans to start launching projects despite the delays caused by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax litigation,” said Christina Kind, trustee for The Patricia Kind Family Foundation. “Vare is already at risk for closure and we hope our funding can help avoid that from happening. We encourage other funders to support Rebuild now so community members can begin to see sorely needed improvements in their neighborhood as soon as possible.”
Vare serves the Grays Ferry and Point Breeze neighborhoods in South Philadelphia and is home to a variety of beloved neighborhood activities, including popular basketball and gymnastics programs. The center was forced to close in October 2017 after it was deemed unsafe by structural engineers hired by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. In December, the first floor of Vare was re-opened after temporary improvements were made to secure the building. However, the second floor remains closed and Vare will likely be forced to shut down again within the next year if more permanent improvements are not made.
“Vare Rec Center is vital to the safety and development of children in this community and rebuilding this neighborhood hub is critically important,” said Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who represents the district where Vare is located. “Losing this facility would be devastating to these children and their families. I want to sincerely thank The Patricia Kind Family Foundation for recognizing this and helping us move forward with the process to rebuild Vare.”
This summer, Rebuild will start the process of selecting the organization responsible for managing the Vare project. A major component for the first phase of the project will include a community engagement process, which is expected to kick off this winter after the partner organizations have been selected. The engagement process will help determine how the site can be improved to support the programs and activities that best serve the surrounding neighborhood.
“I’m excited that Rebuild has received a grant from The Patricia Kind Family Foundation to support a robust design and community engagement process for improvements at Vare,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner, Kathryn Ott Lovell. “Working closely with community members will be important to ensure access to quality programming and welcoming facilities to all Philadelphians.”
Later this year, Rebuild is expected to announce more projects that will start using available funding.