A long-anticipated city program to fund public park and recreation center renovations with money from the soda tax hit a big milestone today.
On Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney and city officials cut the ribbon for the newly renovated Fishtown Recreation Center—the first completed project in the Rebuild program. The $1.1 million recreation center project has been underway since 2016, when the Trust for Public Land started discussing ways to revive the run-down public site with the public. The updated space features redesigned playground equipment and an asphalt play space.
The opening marks a big moment for the Rebuild program, which is funded largely by the controversial sweetened beverage tax—also known as the “soda tax. The program aims to invest $500 million in renovating 64 parks and recreation centers around the city. However, it hit a snag when the beverage industry challenged the soda tax shortly after it was passed in 2016. A legal battle over the tax ensued, until a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling last month upheld the soda tax, essentially freeing up the money for Rebuild. The program provided additional funding for the Fishtown project in March of 2019.
“This new playground is an incredible milestone for the Fishtown Rebuild project. That’s the promise of Rebuild,” City Council President Darrell Clarke said in a statement Wednesday. “We’re looking forward to seeing this repeated at other centers throughout North Philadelphia.”
Rebuild broke ground on its first project in December, and has started working on 41 centers at 30 city sites.