Case Study

Economic Development

Philadelphia: Green City, Clean Water Project Boosts Local Economy


Credit: PowerCorps PHL



In a short period of time, the Philadelphia Green City, Clean Water program has created jobs, raised property values and increased City tax revenue.

Philadelphia, PA

Northern edge of humid subtropical


Black, 43%
Non-Hispanic White 41%
Hispanic or Latino 12%
Asian 6%
Some Other Race 5%

Targeted contracting, site selection promotes equity


Individual green infrastructure project contracts are generally offered to smaller companies, which adhere to City procurement rules for minority- and women-owned business, and encourage creation of entry level jobs. These types of landscaping and restoration work provide a pathway to living-wage-level jobs, and beyond.

PowerCorpsPHL works

Philadelphia PowerCorpsPHLMore than half find jobs after six months, or sign on for another term. Many continue education.

For participants in Philadelphia’s PowerCorpsPHL, the experience is real and returns benefits to Corp members and the city itself. Corps members:

  • worked on 1,108 maintenance jobs
  • maintained 388 stormwater management sites, often with multiple visits
  • collected more than 40 tons of garbage and debris out of the city’s stormwater systems
    Collected 80,357 lbs of garbage and other debris out of our stormwater systems
Focus on underserved neighborhoods

Seventy-four percent of public green stormwater infrastructure projects are located in low or moderate income neighborhoods. Of the 172 private green infrastructure projects completed [out of 509 planned], 44 percent are located in low and moderate income neighborhoods.

Raises property values

Green infrastructure – trees especially – contribute to higher property values, and increased tax revenues for the city. In this study, properties located within a quarter mile of public infrastructure were valued at $13.8 billion – of which approximately ten percent can be attributed to location near a green stormwater investment.

Increased tax revenue means better schools

Naturally, increased property values generate higher taxes. Once the 25-year project is completed, the report estimates that increased property values will deliver annually an additional $8.1 million in tax revenue for the City, and another $9.9 million per year for the School District of Philadelphia.

Estimated Current Annual Impact of GI Work by Firms in Philadelphia

Source: Econsult Solutions (2016), GSI Partners (2016), IMPLAN, (2013)

Type of ImpactValue
Direct Output ($M)$35
Indirect & Induced Output ($M)$22
Total Output$57
Jobs Supported430
Total Labor Income Including Indirect ($M)$27

City of Philadelphia

Private investment


Philadelphia’s water department was a pioneer in developing green infrastructure as a means of delivering multiple benefits to its residents and their neighborhoods. Along the way, they’ve enlisted the support of many local non-profits and corporate partners.

  • Overbrook Environmental Education Center
  • Jastech
  • PowerCorpsPHY
  • Soak it Up! – a project of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation
Lessons Learned
  • Strong leadership, clear definition of agency roles and responsibilities can drive implementation of even the most complex plan.
  • Effective public/private partnerships deliver job training that can lead to living-wage jobs.
  • Green infrastructure increases property values.
  • Increased property values provide additional tax revenue.
  • Economic impacts of green infrastructure are both direct and indirect: direct when the city or private owners hire contractors; and indirect when the wages paid flow through other sectors of the economy.
  • Environmental regulations, rather than a burden, can often encourage developers to add green features which lend value to the project. The resulting higher sales prices and rental fees can often make the difference between a feasible [and profitable] development – or one that isn’t built at all.
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