Plans for park upgrades moving forward

Plans for several projects at South Philadelphia recreational sites are moving forward, according to a report released by the city.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s Rebuild initiative, which credits the Philadelphia Beverage Tax for raising the necessary funds, has made progress on transformation projects totaling $126 million in committed or expended funds to neighborhood parks, recreation centers and libraries.

South Philadelphia sites such as Vare Recreation Center, Capitolo Playground and Chew Playground were among those projects.

“Rebuild is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in our communities, and the places where our kids learn, play and grow,” said Kira Strong, the new executive director of Rebuild. “Every community in Philadelphia deserves high-quality parks, rec centers and libraries. We are excited about the progress happening across South Philadelphia, and look forward to even more great things to come in 2020.”

The Vare Recreation Center at 26th and Morris streets is still in the planning stages, but is due to receive a $14 million overhaul. The site is in the community engagement and design phase, according to officials. Nonprofit partner Make the World Better is meeting with residents and program users at Vare to hear where residents want the Rebuild investment to go.

A $1 million project to build a new natural grass athletic field at Chew Playground at 18th Street and Washington Avenue is also in the planning and design phase. New LED lights were installed at the site in 2019, and plans to upgrade the building’s roof are expected this year.

Capitolo Playground at 9th and Federal streets was named a recipient of a new soccer mini-pitch, funded through a Rebuild partnership with the Philadelphia Union and the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association in July. Community engagement on the project will begin this month, according to officials. The sprayground at Capitolo will be replaced in the spring to complement the refurbished basketball court and perimeter fencing Rebuild installed last fall.

The Murphy Recreation Center at 3rd and Shunk streets is another South Philadelphia site approved for Rebuild investment. Updates on the plan for improvements at Murphy are expected to come later this year.

Since the first bonds were issued for Rebuild in November 2018, Rebuild has activated work at 61 parks, recreation centers or libraries.

According to the report, two-thirds of Rebuild’s 72 initial facilities are in high-needs neighborhoods, and all are in need of critical capital investment due to years of lack of investment and deferred maintenance.