Though the pandemic has impacted some of our work, we’re using hurdles to reimagine our signature programs.
Since the infancy of Green City, Clean Waters, we’ve cultivated a scope of opportunities for community engagement, including encouraging non-residential properties (such as businesses, schools, and nonprofits) to take part in our Stormwater Grant Program. Spurring motivation for new stormwater projects on already developed properties, the grants program fulfills a few gains: enhancing a property and reducing monthly water bills — all while restoring Philadelphia’s waterways.
Private property owners have used grants issued through the program to construct more than 750 Greened Acres since 2012. Each Greened Acre manages nearly 30,000 gallons of runoff during a one-inch rainstorm.
Historic Germantown (left) and Popi's Italian Restaurant (right) are past Stormwater Grant recipients.
Facing a reduced budget following the pandemic, the team reviewing applications for grants reconsidered what made a project stand out as worthy of funding. With many residents working from home and spending more time in neighborhoods, projects rich in secondary benefits like increased local green space took priority.
“Providing surface greenery throughout Philadelphia was a priority for us when reviewing applications, especially in this unprecedented year when access to green space in our own neighborhoods close to home has been critical for our mental health,” says Beth Anne Lutes, Stormwater Billing and Incentives manager.
As we conclude 2020, we’re proud to award 11 resourceful recipients more than $5 million in grants with properties adding up to about 40 Greened Acres.
Fostering Future Benefits
From an Eastwick place of worship to Olney public schools, sites around Philly demonstrated enthusiasm to clean our waterways, vitalize their communities and commit matching funds to projects.
For many Philadelphians, a respite during these challenging times has been opportunities to visit nearby outdoor spaces. With this in mind, the revamped Stormwater Grant criteria for proposals emphasized prioritizing surface greenery, like vegetation, trees, and depaving on private properties.
Fostering community welfare served as a significant consideration in the Stormwater Grant application process.
“This year, we considered applications that were well distributed geographically throughout the city and could provide benefits to the immediate neighborhood in addition to stormwater management,” Lutes says.
In their submissions, applicants were encouraged to exhibit how their projects enhanced the surrounding community through environmental, social and economic aspects such as:
- Providing usable outside space on the property, like a green gathering area for employees.
- Encouraging a community outreach and/or educational component.
- Allowing for an economic impact to the areas, including local job creation.
- Aligning with other City plans and priorities.
- Addressing the heat island effect, especially in highly impacted neighborhoods.
- Offering schoolyard learning, outdoor/living classroom and curriculum development about stormwater management.
A Spotlight on Schools
With a particular focus on education, this year’s new rubric allowed schools to shine.
Encompassing more than a dozen Greened Acres, six of this year’s 11 grants went to Philly schools. Aside from greening, all of these project proposals inspire educational opportunities for students, staff, and others who engage with the schoolyards.
“At a time when access to outdoor green space has become even more critical, PWD is excited to support greening schoolyards through stormwater management,” says Stephanie Chiorean, PWD schools program partnership specialist. “We hope these green schoolyards will encourage outdoor learning for students in the near future, and be an ongoing asset to the surrounding community providing multiple benefits.”
Several School District of Philadelphia properties were awarded, including Grover Washington Middle School in Olney and Thomas Alva Edison High School in Hunting Park, whose rain garden proposals received match funding from the William Penn Foundation.
In 2017, Adaire Elementary School in Fishtown received stormwater grant funding for a schoolyard project.
The Trust for Public Land was also awarded proposals for a few other School District of Philadelphia schools, including AMY Northwest Middle School in Roxborough, James R. Lowell Elementary School in Olney and Add B. Anderson School in Cobbs Creek. These projects will expand the scope of their schoolyard improvements to incorporate stormwater-friendly depaving.
A KIPP Charter School, located in Allegheny West, is going above and beyond the stormwater regulations applicable to their schoolyard project, as the property is managing more impervious areas onsite as well as on its streets and sidewalks than is required.
Addressing a Heat Crisis
Another standout 2020 Stormwater Grant champion is the headquarters of Esperanza, a comprehensive Hispanic, faith-based nonprofit organization. The institution, located at 5th and Bristol Streets, sits in the hub of Hunting Park, which is a major urban heat island in Philadelphia.
Esperanza's proposed green stormwater infrastructure system, which totals 2.45 Greened Acres, will contribute to greater efforts to combat the urban heat island effect in that region. The North Philly neighborhood is the subject of the multi-entity Beat the Heat project, which we’re proud to be a part of, alongside the Office of Sustainability, the Department of Public Health, Parks and Recreation and the Office of Emergency Management. Addressing heat vulnerability, the initiative involved planting trees, landscaping park areas and modifying older stormwater systems for increased stormwater management.
“We received over $31 million in grant requests which made our decision for awards very difficult since there were so many great applications,” Lutes says. “We are excited to work alongside the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) to partner with so many great property owners, businesses, and other project stakeholders, and look forward to continuing to improve the stormwater grant program in the future.”
Congratulations to all of our 2020 Stormwater Grant Awardees!
- Add B Anderson School
- AMY Northwest Middle School
- Esperanza Headquarters
- Grover Washington Middle School
- James R. Lowell Elementary School
- Kin Properties
- KIPP Charter School
- Philadelphia Federal Credit Union
- Thomas Alva Edison High School
- Teo Chew
- Water Reuse System at 236-56 E Hunting Park Ave