PHILADELPHIA (March 16, 2023) – Mayor Jim Kenney, City officials, Rebuild leadership and community members announced during a groundbreaking the $7 million renovation budget set to take place at Kingsessing Library in Southwest Philadelphia. These renovations are funded by the City’s Rebuild program which will invest more than $400 million into 70-plus Philadelphia public spaces. This investment is part one of a two part project making improvements to both the Library and the Recreation Center located on the same block.
“Kingsessing Library is a beautiful, historic facility and has been a vital neighborhood fixture for many generations over more than a century” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “The renovations funded by Rebuild thanks to the Beverage Tax are long overdue and we’re grateful to the Kingsessing community for their stewardship of this library.”
“I am so excited to break ground on this major renovation of the Kingsessing Library,” Councilmember Jamie R. Gauthier (3rd District) said. “This $7 million project restores the historic library to full-working order and gives Southwest’s young people a state-of-the-art community hub to play, learn, and build community! I am thankful to the neighbors who worked diligently to make sure the upgrades reflect the needs and wishes of the community, and to Rebuild for investing in Kingsessing.”
Future Updates at Kingsessing Library
The Kingsessing branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia opened in 1919, and has not been renovated since the “Changing Lives” campaign in 1999, which refurbished branches and brought Internet service to every library. The library’s early 20th-century charm has garnered the attention of Philadelphians for decades and earned itself a spot on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2009.
Following the input offered by community members through Rebuild’s community engagement initiative efforts, several site renovations will take place to fit community needs including:
- Teen and child reading area
- New roof and doors
- Refurbished masonry
- New elevator
- Comfortable furniture with detailed fixtures and furnishes
- New windows to bring extra light into the space
- Additional lighting improvements on the exterior and interior of the library
- HVAC improvements
“Rebuild’s promise to communities acknowledges the history at each of our sites. Community members have been making memories at Kingsessing Library since the early 1900s and we want to ensure the memories continue for centuries more,” said Kira Strong, Executive Director of Rebuild. “Many thanks to the dedicated neighbors and community members who helped guide this project to today’s groundbreaking.”
“Through these renovations supported by the City of Philadelphia’s Rebuild program, Kingsessing Library will be reimagined and reshaped to meet the changing needs of its community members, and will further the Free Library’s mission of advancing literacy, guiding learning, and inspiring curiosity,” said Kelly Richards, President and Director of the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Library closure and alternative options
During preconstruction and construction The Kingsessing Library will remain closed as contractors relocate and preserve all books and videos. Despite the closure, library resources will continue to be accessible for community members at the Lucien E. Blackwell West Philadelphia Regional Library, 125 South 52nd Street.
Available resources for Kingsessing Library patrons at Blackwell Regional Library include:
- Internet and computer access
- Wi-Fi access
- Printing, photocopying and scanning services
- Storytime and LEAP programs
- Reference services
- Weekly CareerLink tabling (formerly on Thursdays) will be held on Wednesdays
Food distribution via Rev Furlow is also ongoing at the corner of 51st Street and Kingsessing Avenue.
Throughout the process, Rebuild will partner with community members to ensure the site renovations fit the Kingsessing community’s wants and needs. Public libraries are critical to promoting education for residents of all ages. It is equally as important for communities to have sheltered spaces that inspire creativity and togetherness.
Rebuild is a historic investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in neighborhood parks, recreation centers and libraries across Philadelphia. Proposed in Mayor Jim Kenney’s first budget as a part of his vision for a more equitable Philadelphia, Rebuild’s promise to acknowledge history, engage the community and invest intentionally seeks to uplift pivotal community spaces, empower neighborhoods, and promote economic opportunity through diversity and inclusion.
The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 31,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 5 million in-person visits and 5 million more online annually, the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.