Mayor Jim Kenney’s Rebuild initiative released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) Tuesday, seeking nonprofits with considerable construction experience and neighborhood connections to help manage the 150-200 rehabilitation projects planned for the city’s libraries, parks and rec centers.
The RFQ seeks nonprofits with experience completing design and construction on projects that cost over $1 million dollars; that have worked successfully to engage local communities on such projects; have a relationship with at least one of the 406 potential Rebuild sites; have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and; have the financial wherewithal to take on a major construction project.
“We're really looking for nonprofits that have experience working in Philadelphia neighborhoods and then meet those other qualifications in terms of being able to manage construction projects effectively and then also, obviously, [have previously] engaged with residents and prioritized diversity and inclusion,” said Rebuild’s Deputy Director of Community Engagement and Communications, David Gould.
The partner non-profits will directly oversee construction at the individual Rebuild sites using city-provided grants. The plan calls for $500 million to be spent in the next seven years to fix up hundreds of the city’s public spaces, particularly in neighborhoods outside of booming Center City.
The Kenney administration says they are using the somewhat-convoluted partnership model because the city itself lacks the workforce to handle such a sprawling, yet short-term, project.
“Really the impetus for using this structure is that the city just doesn't have the capacity to deliver this volume of projects given our current staffing,” said Gould.
While the nonprofits will need to show a relationship to one or more specific potential Rebuild sites, a potential site will not be doomed if no nonprofit seeks to pre-qualify as a “Project User” under the RFQ, said Gould. “One of the things established in the legislation with City Council is alternative delivery methods for rebuild projects that if for whatever reason the project user structure isn't appropriate.”
In those situations, Gould said that the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority or the Department of Parks and Recreation itself might oversee the construction.
The nonprofit partnership model has concerned some members of City Council, who said it carries the risk of “privatizing” public spaces. City Council has also sought to use the $500 million project as a carrot for increasing diversity in the building trades unions, some of which have been slow to integrate.
When asked how many nonprofits the city hoped to see apply, Gould said there wasn’t a specific number in mind. Given how specific the requirements are, it may be difficult to find many that can qualify.
The funding for the seven year project comes from a $100 million grant from the William Penn Foundation and city bonds financed with soda-tax revenues.
The city will hold four information sessions for interested nonprofits at the Municipal Services Building on the following dates: Friday, August 11, 2017, 1:00-3:00 PM Tuesday, August 15, 2017, 3:00-5:00 PM Tuesday, August 29, 2017, 9:00-11:00 AM Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM. The RFQ will close September 29th.