Leave a Legacy for the 250th by Making a Legacy Pledge

PHILADELPHIA250
4 min readApr 23, 2024
The LOVE sculpture is a legacy of the Bicentennial.

By Danielle Dileo Kim, AIA

Philadelphia’s next big moment is just around the corner with the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. With just two years to go, the country will look to Philadelphia to lead, as it has for each major anniversary before.

Historically, Philadelphia has always played a leading role in recognizing these milestones. With each one, special buildings and monuments were constructed to memorialize the anniversary such as Memorial Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, and the LOVE sculpture, and their lasting legacies have benefited us ever since. Memorial Hall was built for the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and became the home of the city’s first art collection, and eventually the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Benjamin Franklin Bridge greatly improved commerce and travel between Philadelphia and the burgeoning northeast corridor when it opened to traffic on July 1, 1926, in honor of the Sesquicentennial (the 150th). And Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture became a physical expression for Philadelphia’s moniker, the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection), when it was loaned to the city in 1976 for the Bicentennial. These Philadelphia icons show us the lasting impact and future promise of legacy.

Philadelphia has the same opportunity, again, with the 250th. PHILADELPHIA250, the organization leading Philly’s plans for the 250th, is re-imagining milestone anniversaries and thinking about legacy in a new way. Our vision and plans are organized by three pillars: people-powered programs, place-based neighborhood experiences, and purpose-driven legacy projects. All with the goal of strengthening Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and assets through 2026 and beyond.

Imagine if the legacy projects for the 250th offered tangible solutions to address urgent needs now like robust literacy programs for immigrant communities, ample public health access at local health centers, clean and safe tree-lined streets, and sustainable row house renovations that are affordable for older residents? This initiative, Leave a Legacy, will transform anniversary legacies from monuments to movements with community-sourced solutions that address critical needs today to strengthen us tomorrow.

Achieving transformational impact at a citywide scale requires collective participation and action. That’s why we’re calling on you, and the firms and organizations you lead or participate in, to leave a legacy for Philadelphia in your area of expertise and focus. By committing to a strategic initiative that can be scaled up or accelerated for the 250th, you can make an immediate and measurable difference on the issues that matter most to you.

Here’s how the design community can get involved. Think about these examples. Do you want to see more black and brown students study architecture through increased scholarship offerings? Is there a local emissions reduction goal that can be reached by 2026 as part of the 2030 Challenge? Do you have a client whose community project could serve as an important program site in 2026 if completed in time?

Through PHILADELPHIA250’s Leave a Legacy program, you can turn your passions, and those of your firm’s, client’s, or volunteer organization, into legacies by making a 250th legacy pledge with PHILADELPHIA250. Leveraging a milestone anniversary at a city scale like this has never been done before. This is your opportunity to be part of history and make your mark.

To date, the PHILADELPHIA250 legacy community pledges cover a range of initiatives including Special Olympics PA who is scaling up their Cities of Inclusion initiative for 2026 by creating more access and inclusion to Philadelphians who identify as a person with a disability. Why Not Prosper will expand visibility and restorative healing for formerly incarcerated women through a new peace park. Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia has pledged to scale operations and complete 250 home repairs and new units for the 250th. Our Market is a storytelling and cultural preservation program focused on immigrant communities in South Philadelphia’s 9th Street Market that will debut in 2026.

We are working with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society to support their pledge of planting 1,000 trees to restore urban tree canopy in the most climate challenged neighborhoods as advised by the Philly Tree Plan. The Enterprise Center, a neighborhood non-profit providing access and opportunities to minority entrepreneurs, is looking to provide investment grants to 20 existing and up-and-coming legacy businesses to preserve the health and culture of our commercial corridors.

These are just some of the positive acts that have been inspired by the 250th and this list continues to grow each day. We are building the legacy pledge inventory now, with a plan to celebrate the collective impact of the 250th legacy projects in the closing months of 2026 with tours, collectibles, and a symposium in Philadelphia called Leaving Our Legacy.

When the country looks to Philadelphia in 2026, let’s show them a great time at the MLB All-Star Game at Citizens Bank Park, the amazing national exhibits, over-the-top fireworks displays, and more. Let’s also show them the legacies that we’ve built from our capacity to create change, together.

I look forward to hearing your bold ideas for 2026. Please reach out, and we can help you set a legacy goal. I dare you to declare your vision, and leave a lasting legacy for all of us.

Danielle DiLeo Kim, AIA, is the President and CEO of PHILADELPHIA250, the nonprofit leading and inspiring Philadelphia’s 250th anniversary celebration of American independence in 2026. Leveraging her urban design and community engagement experience, Danielle is helping to shape this once-in-a-generation milestone to engage Philadelphians in their neighborhoods to deliver a “by the people, for all people” 250th. Danielle believes that Philadelphia can serve as a national model for an equitable and culturally competent 250th anniversary marked by civic action and transformation.

You can reach her at danielle@philadelphia250.us.

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PHILADELPHIA250

Coordinating the United States’ 250th anniversary in Philadelphia. Creating a commemoration that is truly by the people, for the people.