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Oh Popi: How South Philly Restaurant Became a Green Infrastructure Posterchild
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Oh Popi: How South Philly Restaurant Became a Green Infrastructure Posterchild

By Philly Watersheds Blogger Brian Rademaekers

The biggest source of pollution impacting the quality of Philly’s rivers today? Stormwater runoff. Philadelphia Water is fighting that pollution in a number of ways, including our multi-decade green stormwater infrastructure program, Green City, Clean Waters.

We’ve been adding green stormwater tools to streets, parks, schools—pretty much anywhere we can, whenever we can. But all that may still not be enough to reduce stormwater pollution by 85 percent, the ambitious target of our stormwater management plan.

To pull it off, we need the help of businesses and commercial property owners across the city. And we’re making it easy for the private sector to get in on the green infrastructure movement with tools like the Stormwater Management Incentives Program (SMIP).

Stormwater Management Incentives Program

In a nutshell, SMIP provides businesses and commercial property owners with grants that allow them to build green infrastructure projects. The property owner gets beautiful landscaping and credits that can dramatically lower stormwater bills. Their neighbors get more local green space. Philadelphia Water gets crucial green infrastructure, and at a far lower cost.

And we all get cleaner, healthier rivers.

Our Stormwater Pioneers program showcases people who really make the most of SMIP. And our 2015 Pioneer, Gina Rucci, certainly did.

Gina Rucci Popi's Restaurant

Stormwater Pioneer, Popi’s Restaurant

As co-owner of Popi’s Italian Restaurant on S. 20th Street in Packer Park, her journey to becoming a green infrastructure advocate started when she saw the $300-plus stormwater bill that came with her newly-acquired side parking lot. Instead of throwing up her hands, she called the SMIP number on her bill. Within a year, she had used a $94,860 grant to build two rain gardens that her customers and neighbors rave about.

Popi's Restaurant stormwater pioneer

Oh, and that stormwater bill? It was cut by an impressive 60 percent, which means her personal $5,000 investment will pay for itself in less than two years. That made her a true SMIP ambassador.

Popi's restaurant rain garden philadelphia

“People complain about their water bill, but the Water Department actually takes its own revenue and gives back to us, which is why we could do this,” Rucci told the crowd gathered at the November 17 Stormwater Pioneers award ceremony. “There aren’t many places that give you your money back. They’re taking the money…and giving it back to you so you can invest your business and neighborhood.”

We could talk about Rucci’s story all day, but she tells it much better herself in this short video made before the event:

(2015 Stormwater Pioneer from Philadelphia Water on Vimeo.)

How to apply for the SMIP Grant

If you own a business or commercially zoned property (or know someone who does) we highly recommend checking out the SMIP grant page here and filling out an application.

Philly needs everyone to get on the green infrastructure movement, and we think your neighbors, customers, rivers and bottom line will thank you for it.

Become a Supporter!

If you love what we do you can support our mission with a one-time or monthly contribution.
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Philadelphia Water
Philadelphia Water serves the Greater Philadelphia region by providing integrated water, wastewater, and stormwater services. The utility plans for, operates, and maintains both the infrastructure and the organization necessary to purvey high quality drinking water to provide an adequate and reliable water supply for all household, commercial, and community needs, and to sustain and enhance the region’s watersheds and quality of life by managing wastewater and stormwater effectively. View all posts by Philadelphia Water

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