Mayor Jim Kenney’s ambitious Rebuild Philadelphia project to invest $500 million in Philly parks, libraries, and recreation centers, has been long held back due to a major legal battle over taxes.
But this week, it took its first significant step forward.
On Monday, city officials announced that Heitzman Recreation Center in Harrowgate will become the next facility to receive funding from Rebuild Philadelphia.
It’s big news for the program, which has been partially on hold due to legal issues. A source of the project’s funding comes from a 2016 city tax on sweetened beverages, which was quickly challenged by the beverage industry. However, thanks to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling last month, which upheld the beverage tax, that money is finally freed up.
Heitzman Recreation Center, which is in need of improved playgrounds and bathrooms, is the first of Rebuild’s 64 planned projects, to benefit from the funding following the ruling.
“The court case made us wait longer than expected, but we’re all thrilled that we can finally start making these critical investments that are needed in communities across the city,” said managing director Michael DiBerardinis in a statement regarding the Heitzman center this week.
Changes to the recreation center site wont be decided on until the community gets a chance to weigh in on the project—a process which should start this winter, the statement said.
While Heitzman is the first project since the ruling, the Rebuild initiative has been able to make some steps toward their 64 site goal in the past year. Thanks to already approved funds in the 2018 capital budget, they were able to invest in Vare Recreation Center, Parkside Fields, Olney Recreation Center, and Glavin Playground.
Still, there’s a way to go before the Rebuild project is complete. Fifty-nine more sites throughout the city, including 11 libraries, sports complexes, playgrounds, parks, and recreation centers are still on the list, and the city is currently working on a schedule for those, the statement said.