Northeast Philadelphia sees first wave of Rebuild park renovations

Renovations at Disston Recreation Center, Gifford Playground, Hayes Playground and Moss Playground are some of the first completed projects of the city’s Rebuild initiative.

A $1.1 million investment in the Disston Recreation Center added a new playground, adult fitness center, walkways and more. The park was upgraded as part of the city’s Rebuild initiative. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO

With COVID-19 keeping children and families indoors for the last few months, newly refurbished parks opening in the Northeast will help keep people outdoors and active this summer.

Disston Recreation Center, Gifford Playground, Hayes Playground and Moss Playground collectively received about $4 million worth of upgrades and renovations as part of Philadelphia’s Rebuild initiative. The initiative is largely funded by the Philadelphia beverage tax as well as a $100 million commitment from the William Penn Foundation and other philanthropic and grant funds.

Work at Disston started last spring with landscaping and improvements to the field. A groundbreaking last fall unveiled a brand new playground and adult fitness area, connected by new walkways and tree plantings.

Thus far, $1.1 million has been invested at the site. In the future, the recreation building will receive upgrades, which could include an HVAC system repair.

The newly refurbished playground at Disston Recreation Center was funded by the city’s Rebuild initiative and includes new equipment for kids to play on as well as an adult fitness area and seating. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO

Gifford’s $780,000 upgrade has doubled the size of the property in Somerton near Loesche Elementary School. Renovations include landscaping, tree planting and a new seating area as well as a new sprayground.

“Spraygrounds are becoming a more popular option for communities,” said Rebuild Executive Director Kira Strong. She pointed out that children can have fun and keep cool with them if they don’t know how to swim, and that they can be open spring, summer and early fall without having to be constantly staffed by lifeguards.

Spraygrounds are anticipated to be a popular option this fall with Philadelphia pools being closed during COVID-19, said Maita Soukup of Philadelphia Parks & Rec. Soukup said they are often requested by communities.

Hayes will also see the new opening of a sprayground as well as other amenities as part of a $2.8 million renovation. Rebuild footed $1.5 million of that bill, with the rest coming from Councilman Brian O’Neill, the Bustleton Bengals and Parks & Rec. The site’s new playground and landscaping should be ready for play in July.

Meanwhile, a $1 million-plus renovation at Moss will bring a brand-new basketball court, playground and adult fitness area to the park. A new cheer pad, adjacent to the basketball court and football field, is dedicated specifically to cheerleaders. The playground is ready for play now, and the basketball court will be ready for dribbling when group sports resume in the green phase.

There are also new sidewalks along Cheltenham Avenue and Ditman Street, along with new tree plantings and site landscaping.

These parks are among the first to be upgraded as part of Rebuild, following a new athletic field that opened at Parkside Evans Playground in West Philadelphia last fall. The groundbreaking held at Moss Playground in spring 2019 was the first to be held for a Rebuild project.

The sites and renovations are identified with the help of Council, Parks & Rec staff and the community itself, Strong said. Rebuild focuses on sites that are aging and neighborhoods in need of refurbished facilities.

“Families in the Northeast will have more places to play this summer thanks to the mayor’s Rebuild program,” said Councilman Bobby Henon, whom Mayor Jim Kenney has called “the biggest crusader” for the soda tax.

In the future, Lawncrest Recreation Center and Library will receive a multi-million-dollar renovation via Rebuild and local nonprofit Community Ventures. This fall, Rebuild will speak with residents about renovations at Russo Park and Playground, which could include new athletic fields and a walking track. ••

New equipment at Disston Recreation Center. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO