Mayor Kenney Joins City and State Officials to Break Ground at Rebuild’s Blanche A. Nixon Library
The City’s Rebuild program with the support of state and federal partners invest $8.5 million into the historic West Philadelphia library
PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Jim Kenney, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), PA Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton, PA Senator Anthony Williams, Free Library of Philadelphia, Community Ventures, Rebuild Philadelphia, and community members broke ground today on $8.5 million in renovations at the Blanche A. Nixon Library located in West Philadelphia.
“The renovations at Blanche are set to transform and restore this historic building into a clean, safe, modern, and accessible community asset for many generations to come,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Built in the 1900s, the Blanche A. Nixon Library requires critical accessibility improvements to equitably meet the needs of all the residents it serves. Thanks to U.S. Senator Casey’s $1.4 million in funding, we will be able to bring essential upgrades such as a new entrance ramp, bathrooms, and an elevator.”
A community staple within the Cobbs Creek neighborhood, the Blanche A. Nixon Library is undergoing major renovations thanks to Rebuild’s investment and nearly $1.7 million in grants including $250,000 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and $1.4 million in federal Community Project Funding (CPF) for ADA upgrades to the library, secured by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA).
“I fought for this award to ensure every resident of Cobbs Creek, including those with disabilities, can physically access their local library,” said U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). “With this funding, Cobbs Creek Library will be able to install ramps and host more educational and public activities for all community members to enjoy.”
To date, Rebuild is investing millions of dollars into the Cobbs Creek neighborhood renovating sites including Cobbs Creek Nature Playground, Cobbs Creek Environmental Center, Johnny Sample Recreation Center, and Blanche A. Nixon Library.
“The Blanche Nixon Library has been a Cobbs Creek institution for nearly 100 years,” said PA Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton, D-Phila/Delaware. “This refresh will make the library safer and more accessible to community members, so we can continue to gather, collaborate, and enjoy the space together.”
The Blanche A. Nixon Library is one of 12 libraries that Rebuild selected for renovations and the second library to break ground this November. Community members know Blanche for its rich history and the critical resources provided to community members of all ages since opening in 1925.
"This Thanksgiving season, I'm thankful that every level of government came together to invest in the Blanche A. Nixon Library," said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District). "This project is what Rebuild is all about, providing Cobbs Creek with world-class public spaces while honoring this site's rich history as a place where Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection come to life! Blanche Nixon is smiling down on us today."
The $8.5 million renovations and upgrades include:
- A new outdoor amphitheater
- Upgraded walking paths
- ADA upgrades including a new ramp, toilet rooms, and an elevator
- New outdoor playful learning area with interactive play panels and seating
- Updated furniture and finishes
- Newly installed windows, exterior doors, HVAC and lighting
- A brand new family toilet room
- The Blanche A. Nixon Memorial Art Sculpture made in partnership with Percent for Art
"The revitalized space will not only provide access to vast knowledge but also foster a sense of belonging for people from all walks of life. By embracing diversity and creating an environment that celebrates inclusion, we are nurturing a stronger, more united community that values the richness of each individual’s story. Together we are unlocking the doors of opportunity and building a future where everyone feels welcome and empowered within the walls of the Blanche A. Nixon Library,” said PA Senator Anthony Williams.
This Free Library of Philadelphia branch was renamed in 1990 to honor Blanche Nixon, a Cobbs Creek community activist and library volunteer. With a passion for her neighbors, Nixon worked tirelessly with the Crisis Prevention Network, the Safe Street Advisory Board, and the Southwest Philadelphia Interracial Mother’s Council.
"We are excited to be breaking ground on, yet another Rebuild project. The Blanche A Nixon - Cobbs Creek Library has been part of this community since 1925, and through the Rebuild project it is receiving much-needed renovations to improve the overall user experience for the area’s residents and families," said Free Library of Philadelphia President & Director Kelly Richards.
The renaming of the library in her honor signified the community’s promise to continue her dedication to the local children. In addition to her activism, she took pride in beautification projects at the branch, including its garden and exterior mural. To celebrate the site’s culture, Rebuild is prioritizing the preexisting historical features at Blanche by working with a historic preservation consultant and tying those features into the renovations.
“Rebuild’s main priority is keeping the history and culture of our local communities alive and vibrant. I hope Ms. Blanche Nixon is proudly looking down on us as we break ground on this critical neighborhood landmark,” said Rebuild Philadelphia Executive Director Kira Strong. “The planning and preparation at this site have gone wonderfully due in large part to the community’s active participation and willingness to voice their opinions. I cannot wait to see this site come back to life and I look forward to the ribbon cutting.”
“It has been our pleasure to partner with many Cobbs Creek residents, Rebuild, the staff at the Free Library, and our design team to capture their vision to refresh and modernize the Nixon Library to invest in this cherished community asset and honor Blanche Nixon’s legacy,” said Community Ventures Director of Development Troy Hannigan. “We look forward to standing here again after construction is complete to cut the ribbon in 2024!”
Diverse and Minority-Owned Business Participation
Rebuild works with local minority business owners in all aspects of the project from construction and design to landscaping. At the Blanche Library, project construction participation includes 36.7 percent Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and 23.2 percent Women Business Enterprises (WBE), and the site’s professional services participation is comprised of 54.4 percent MBEs and 22.5 percent WBEs.
Through the combination of Rebuild and commonwealth funding, Rebuild can fully deliver on the Rebuild promise to work closely with the community to understand their vision and invest intentionally to deliver a quality resource in their neighborhood built by Philadelphians for Philadelphians.
Rebuild is a historic investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in neighborhood parks, recreation centers, and libraries across Philadelphia. Proposed in Mayor Jim Kenney’s first budget as a part of his vision for a more equitable Philadelphia, Rebuild’s promise to acknowledge history, engage the community, and invest intentionally seeks to uplift pivotal community spaces, empower neighborhoods, and promote economic opportunity through diversity and inclusion.
The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 31,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 5 million in-person visits and 5 million more online annually, the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.
Community Ventures is a Philadelphia non-profit real estate development and property management organization founded in 1987 to work in partnership with neighborhoods to improve communities and increase the supply of affordable housing. Community Ventures was selected by Rebuild to manage the Lawncrest Library improvements including community engagement, design, and construction.