Philadelphia, PA, Mayor Jim Kenney was joined by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson to announce Vare Recreation Center as the first project to receive investment from Rebuilding Community Infrastructure (Rebuild), the City’s initiative to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in parks, recreation centers, and libraries across Philadelphia.
The announcement comes following a request from the Mayor to City Council to fund Rebuild through the City’s capital budget in an effort to streamline the program and get projects started.
“Recreation centers like Vare are the reason we proposed Rebuild and passed the beverage tax in the first place,” said Mayor Kenney. “We know that every day we’re not investing to improve facilities like this, we’re putting our communities at risk. With two unprecedented commitments from the building trades to build diversity in their ranks through Rebuild, it’s time start investing the money that’s been sitting unspent while parks, recreation centers, and libraries are in dire need of investment, and in cases like Vare are on the brink of closure.”
Vare serves the Grays Ferry and Point Breeze neighborhoods in South Philadelphia and is home to a variety of beloved neighborhood activities, including popular basketball and gymnastics programs. The center was forced to close in October 2017 after it was deemed unsafe by structural engineers hired by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. On December 4, 2017, the first floor of Vare was re-opened after temporary improvements were made to secure the building. However, the second floor remains closed and Vare will likely need to be shut down again within the next year if more permanent improvements are not made.
With Wednesday’s announcement, the City confirmed that Rebuild will fund a new master plan for Vare, which is expected to launch later this year. The process will include a robust community engagement process so neighbors can help shape what the new site will look like.