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Charity To Provide $100M For Philadelphia Parks, Libraries

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Philadelphia charity said Sunday it will contribute $100 million to help Mayor Jim Kenney renovate city parks, libraries, recreation centers and playgrounds.

The William Penn Foundation said the money committed to the mayor's "Rebuilding Community Infrastructure Initiative" is the largest single grant in the foundation's history.

Janet Haas, chairwoman of the board of directors, said the grant underscores the foundation's focus on "generating new approaches for investing in under-resourced communities" and allows it to participate in bringing communities together "through the creative use of public space."

"In our current climate, public spaces are now more important than ever," Haas said in a statement. "These are the places where we come to know our neighbors and the city around us, where we learn from each other, talk and engage with one another, and build trust and a sense of community."

The Rebuild program announced earlier this year envisions the city selling $300 million in bonds, and securing hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding from the state and federal governments and philanthropic foundations for improvements in neighborhoods around the city.

The William Penn Foundation in July approved an initial grant of $4.8 million for startup costs and initial implementation. After the city passes a proposed $300 million city bond issue for the program, the foundation will make $75 more million available. The remaining $20.2 million will be split between the foundation and matching contributions from state, federal and other philanthropic and private sources, the foundation said.

Haas said the program could serve as a national model for community reinvestment, with resources directed where they can have the greatest impact.

"Not only are we interested in creating places for community interaction and engagement to occur, but we also want the process of designing and building these new places to deeply involve local residents, thereby inspiring a strong sense of ownership and stewardship for these new assets within the community," she said.

Kenney cited the program when pushing for a soda tax in Philadelphia, which the City Council approved this summer. The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax is set to take effect in January.
In 2012, the foundation announced a $15 million donation to the city's public and private schools over three years aimed at raising achievement of low-income students.

(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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