This page was updated on November 2, 2021.
In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is the first city in the state to join TNC's urban conservation initiative. Here, our strategies include promoting solutions to help absorb stormwater, planting trees to help cool cities and reduce air pollution, and engaging and inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards to tackle the challenge of making cities more sustainable places to live.
Green City, Clean Waters
In Northeast Philadelphia, TNC has partnered with the Holmesburg Baptist Church and Christian Academy to implement a series of green stormwater retrofit projects. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Holmesburg has a rich history, and the Holmesburg Baptist Church has been serving the community since 1829.
The retrofit projects completed on the church's property in September 2021 replaced impervious surface with green stormwater infrastructure that will capture and clean an estimated 3.5 million gallons of stormwater annually. Filtering and slowing runoff will allow for better infiltration into the earth before it reaches Pennypack Creek and the Delaware River, helping to improve water quality.
These projects were funded by the Philadelphia Water Department through a stormwater management incentive program grant, as well as contributions from the William Penn Foundation and other private donors.
Philadelphia can have healthy creeks and rivers again, but it will require innovative partnerships and investments at the community level—particularly in communities and neighborhoods that have historically been underrepresented and under resourced. By partnering with private, community-based landowners, TNC supports the Philadelphia Water Department’s Green City, Clean Waters Program.
TNC’s collaboration with the Holmesburg Baptist Church and Christian Academy is a great example of how a global conservation NGO can help bridge gaps at the community level between private landowners and local municipalities.
Neighborhood Scale Solutions
Our partnership with Holmesburg Baptist Church builds on existing relationships TNC has built in Philadelphia. In the fall of 2020, TNC and the Friends Rehabilitation Program (FRP) began the process of planning and constructing eight green stormwater projects across four city blocks in the Belmont neighborhood that will filter stormwater pollution, restore urban habitat and create new green space.
FRP is a local nonprofit providing affordable housing and social services in low- and moderate-income communities. TNC and FRP have been working together in Belmont to collaborate on neighborhood-scale greening approaches and solutions.
These upgrades to infrastructure will provide layered benefits to residents, like food production, flood mitigation and meaningful job training. The stormwater projects will create living wage jobs opportunities in operation and maintenance of green infrastructure—jobs that will continue to grow in demand as a result of the city’s Green City, Clean Waters plan.
Planning a Greener, More Equitable Future
For decades, cities across the country have been experimenting with solutions to legacy problems faced by many urban communities in the United States—problems rooted in the nation’s history of racial discrimination in housing and urban planning.
TNC’s urban conservation initiatives are strategically designed to develop new creative partnerships and bring direct and tangible benefits to city landscapes. We aim to prioritize conservation initiatives that foster equitable outcomes for historically underrepresented and underserved communities.
Sharing experiences, lessons, science and best practices both locally and globally is what sets TNC apart. Now that our conservation efforts in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware are being integrated into one program, TNC stands to have a more regional conservation impact, embedding both cities into the broader landscape of the lower Delaware River.