Archive for the ‘Placemaking’ Category« Power of the People: Cities Can Harness It Knight Foundation philanthropy accelerates transformation in Akron »Knight Foundation philanthropy accelerates transformation in Akron »
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
A guest entry by Gregory Milo, educator at Archbishop Hoban High School
Colleagues tell Cheryl Smith that she has a unique talent, an ability to spend time helping struggling entrepreneurs extract in an articulate way the ideas in their heads. She sees it as simply patience.
Cheryl’s Collaboration Station focuses on coaching people who come to her with an entrepreneurial idea. Their vision is fantastic, and their will is strong, but they might have difficulty articulating their business plan. Collaboration Station provides the clients with necessary business skills.
Cheryl sits down with each client and helps them transfer their brilliant idea onto paper in a way suitable for the professional world. It is a disciplined and persistent process. As a high school teacher, I recognize the sometimes exhausting practice breaking down students’ ideas in order to reestablish them into something with structure.
“You can’t just talk a good game,” Cheryl declares, “You have to take that talk and put it on paper.” Through her business writing lab, Cheryl can help her clients build justification for their dreams. She admits that there is a of of hand-holding. Her clients’ learning curve is a lot bigger when it comes to making their business dream a reality. Her clients come from low to moderate income backgrounds. They might lack education. They might be trying to escape from a history of addiction or incarceration, but they all have great ideas and a will.
The process at Collaboration Station is a tedious, yet advantageous, one. Cheryl starts with one-on-one technical assistance, starting with assessing where a client is and then creating an individual development plan that addresses the action steps to take the client from the business plan to reality. It is a self-paced program that places the responsibility on the client. Whatever the background, Cheryl’s clients usually lack necessary tools, such as writing or business knowhow, but Cheryl can provide the tools.
Of course there is the altruistic want to help the “underdog,” as Cheryl admits, but she also understands the rational reason for her work, explaining at length the need for a place like Collaboration Station.
Cheryl energetically and with purpose reels off numerous facts and figures describing the overall economic benefit of providing people of low income backgrounds or ex-offenders with tools, such as education, that can allow them to compete as entrepreneurs.
As Cheryl writes grants and business plans she has to provide evidence of support, which leads to a lot of research, and it shows. She tells me how nearly 45% of small businesses are started nationally by people of low to modest income levels, and 8% of them are below poverty. She continues, “Small businesses create 53.1% of all jobs.”
“Can we address this?” she says with a laugh. “Why not give low income populations an opportunity to be a success? It would decrease the drain on the local economy and resources and increase the tax dollars.”
Cheryl has addressed the facts. She tells me of the man who wanted to take advantage of the foreclosure trend, and so he began taking pictures of properties for the banks to identify work that needed to be done. She tells me of the single mother who wanted to help other single mothers, and so she started her own nonprofit organization. There’s the woman with her own catering business. There’s the ex-offender who has started his own organization to help other ex-offenders. It’s a diverse list of success stories, but they all needed Collaboration Station to get their jump start. To accomplish her feat, Cheryl needs help. She needs business volunteers to help with seminars that teach her clients about how to do their taxes. She needs funds to help her clients with start-up ideas or with office supplies. She would like interns from The University of Akron who could work with her clients in the writing lab.
She’s a small operation with a big heart and a strong drive, and her success means a less needy society that works for itself to build a stronger economy for Akron. Cheryl can’t do it alone, however.
People have told Cheryl that low income level people don’t have what it takes. But she knows there is a work ethic waiting to be tapped and assisted.
Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Dear University Park friends,
The University Park Alliance (UPA) staff extends our deep thanks for the amazing prayer service held in support of our work on the recent National Day of Prayer. We especially thank the host of the event, Pastor Ron Shultz of Family of Faith United Methodist Church on East Market Street.
It means everything to us to be worthy of this high expression of community support, with Rev. Shultz and fellow University Park pastors leading friends and neighbors in song and prayer for the success of our urban revitalization efforts. These prayers remain in our hearts. They are prayers that guide our work as we join with city officials, business and institutional leaders and neighbors alike to improve safety, housing, wellness and job opportunities in the 50-block area that comprises University Park.
As we carry out this important work, we are ever mindful that it takes all of us working as a team to overcome challenges and negative influences. Civic engagement is essential to achieving the goal of community transformation.
We at University Park Alliance are committed to the neighborhood and its people. By choosing to pray for our work, you expressed your commitment to the work at hand. We hope to see you all at our Neighborhood Summit on June 16 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Quaker Square. Lunch and childcare will be provided. The nonprofit America Speaks will help facilitate the event with technological assistance from The University of Akron. The purpose of the Summit is to celebrate our progress to date, shape new initiatives, and provide a forum to connect neighbors with leaders in the City and from anchor institutions within University Park.
Register online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/UPASummit
With faith in a common mission, we look forward to achieving success together for the benefit of all who live, learn and work in this great place we call University Park.
Eric Anthony Johnson, Executive Director
Carol Murphy, Chief of Staff
Friday, December 2nd, 2011
If you want to get a glimpse of what’s possible in the area of urban redevelopment, take a trip to Milwaukee. I was among a group of business and civic leaders from Akron who recently visited that city to gain insights into their successes and learn how they are tackling ongoing challenges. It was an energizing experience for two reasons. One, I was impressed by what our gracious hosts had accomplished. Two, I knew Akron was embarking on much the same path, with what I believe to be great promise for the future.
Milwaukee is taking advantage of its own unique resources. The city is reinventing itself by systematically drawing on assets that already are part of the town. The Milwaukee River runs through the city’s heart, a characteristic the city has done well to capitalize on.
Milwaukee now has its vibrant RiverWalk along three miles of the central city. RiverWalk beautifully defines what’s new and promising about Milwaukee. You’ll find high-end housing, stores, restaurants and open walkways for art shows, music and festivals. This is the kind of place where people want to work, live and spend their time.
What was the critical first step to producing RiverWalk? Key community leaders came together and worked through the planning. City leaders talked to each other. That’s how the complex became a reality. While collaboration may seem to be a simple concept, it doesn’t happen everywhere. This kind of collaborative approach is what Akron and Milwaukee have in common.
Too often, communities are disrupted by siloed agencies, government bureaucracy and a divided business and nonprofit leadership. Communication is inconsistent.
In Akron, as in Milwaukee, a unified vision drives redevelopment efforts. With this kind of sharp focus on a viable future, University Park Alliance recently attracted KUD International, a leading international real estate developer, to be the project manager on the revitalization of a 50-block core area of our city.
This is a tremendous victory for our community, but it didn’t occur overnight. It is an outgrowth of years of city leaders talking to each other, weighing possibilities on how to parlay existing assets into new opportunities, and then creating the right structure to enable success.
UPA exists for this reason. We were created as a real estate development corporation to advance deals — such as the one with our new real estate development partner, KUD.
Akron’s leaders were so persistent in the need for this type of new organizational structure that they convinced the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to provide the necessary major funding.
This is the new-economy approach. It’s about leaders coming together, assessing unique strengths that already exist, developing creative financing and ultimately, creating and executing a master plan for implementation.
Yes, RiverWalk is a fantastic achievement other cities no doubt hope to emulate in one form or fashion. You’ll see if you visit. Akron, too, is building its own success. In the coming months and years, Akron and UPA will host leaders from other cities, and share our secrets to redevelopment success. Of this, I am quite sure.
Tags: Akron Beacon Journal, Collaboration, Community, Leadership, Placemaking, Urban Neighborhoods, Vision, Walkability
Posted in Leadership, Placemaking, University Park Alliance, UP Akron | No Comments »
Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
At University Park Alliance, we’ve talked a lot lately about creating a “sense of place” in the 50-block area surrounding the University of Akron. Well, let’s talk more about that.
By one measure, a sense of place is created by landmarks. If you think of St. Louis, for example, the Gateway Arch comes to mind. Mention Salt Lake City, and it’s the Mormon Tabernacle.
Landmarks, whether famous or not, certainly contribute to the identity of any city or town.
Of course, structures alone don’t create places where people to live well, work well and connect with one another with ease. Our idea of a sense of place relates to a total environment, and how people relate within their surroundings.
In Akron, the strong fabric of the community is a defining characteristic. We benefit from a proactive government that promotes development and job creation as well as neighborhood activities. We have a spirit of collaboration among civic leaders that enables progress through teamwork. Added to that, we have community members who understand their civic responsibility.
A great example: Driving around Akron, you can’t help but notice the new school buildings both within University Park and across the city. We have these new schools because our city, school and civic leaders came together more than 10 years ago to plan for the future. Their leadership inspired Akron voters to become the first in the state of Ohio to approve a local income tax for a school bond issue.
In recent years, similar collaborative efforts have resulted in new building and restoration projects that have changed the look of our core city. With the reopening of the Ohio & Erie Canal, for instance, Akron became the only city in America with a canal abutting a national park. Not too far away is Canal Park Stadium, the home of the Akron Aeros, a Double A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.
There are dozens of other examples.
The point is that these physical locations reflect something greater — visionary thinking and planning that can produce results, and provide residents new opportunities to gather. Lives intersect, adding to an increasingly vibrant community.
UPA’s role is to expand this progress to central-city neighborhoods, so that options for urban living are enhanced. When we see an increase in pedestrian traffic — because more people walk to schools, parks, stores, restaurants and other places — then we’ll see a fully urbanized Akron. A sense of place is about ambience. It’s about creating settings where people want to live their lives, and where they connect with one another because it’s the natural thing to do.