DNP successor takes shape
Work begins on forming new organization
A lengthy effort to form a successor organization to the Downtown Newark Partnership entered a new phase Tuesday when approximately two dozen business owners, elected officials and others community members met to begin hammering out the specifics of what the new group will look like.
The new nonprofit, which officials are now simply calling the Newark Partnership, will focus on the entire city and work to address issues beyond just the concerns of the business community. Unlike the DNP, it will operate outside the auspices of the city government.
“In essence, this is where the real work begins, with this committee,” co-chair Dan Rich told the committee members Tuesday night. “We’re charged with setting it all up and making it all happen.”
Rich, director of the University of Delaware’s community engagement initiative, has been working with Mayor Polly Sierer for nearly a year to replace the DNP, which was founded in 1998 as a partnership between the city, UD and downtown business owners.
The DNP had successes, but in recent years, fundraising and interest in the group waned, and the organization drew criticism from some residents and council members who argued it was inappropriate for a governmentrun organization to promote only downtown businesses while ignoring the businesses on the outskirts of the city.
The new partnership will have three primary goals: to serve an economic development role for the entire city of Newark, to create an information-sharing network for local nonprofits and to be a catalyst for communitywide conversations about improving the future of Newark.
City council approved the transition last month, but the partnership had been discussed only in generalities.
On Tuesday, details of the group’s structure began to take shape.
Attorney Max Walton said he plans to file the legal documents to create the nonprofit and write a draft of the bylaws this month.
The partnership will have a board of the directors – the makeup of which has yet to be determined – and three standing committees, each charged with carrying out one of the partnership’s primary goals. There will also be several subcommittees, including one focusing on improving the downtown area.
Over the next few months, the organizing committee will finalize the bylaws and committee structures. The public can weigh in during the Dec. 5 Newark Futures Workshop at Clayton Hall or at any committee meeting.
Rich said he hopes to have the basics of the organization up and running by the spring, though it won’t be completely functional for nearly two years, he said.
Right now, much of the behind-the-scenes work is being done by employees of UD’s community engagement initiative, but the partnership eventually will hire an executive director and other staff members.
Among the partnership’s first tasks will be creating an inventory of the city’s businesses, researching how Newark compares to other college towns and creating a community resource guide that lists Newark nonprofits and the services they offer.
“Our credibility as an institution will be judged by demonstrating that we’re actually doing things that make a difference for the community,” Rich said. “We’ve already been told by people who are very sympathetic to us that maybe we’re trying to bite off too much. To which our response so far has been, ‘No, that’s the whole point. That’s the mosaic that makes it work. That’s representation of the whole community.’”
Still unclear, though, is the partnership’s funding. City council agreed to provide start-up funds but has not yet decided how much.
Rich asked the city for a yearly commitment of $150,000 per year for three years and said UD will be asked to make a similar commitment. He is also seeking five-figure contributions from several large companies in the city.
Contributions from the city, UD and large corporations will provide the startup funds to allow the organization to get off the ground. Ultimately, the goal is for the organization to raise at least most of its funds through membership fees, though it remains unclear if organizers expect to request city funding after the initial three years.
Members of the organizing committee include: Dan Rich, UD; Polly Sierer, mayor; Michael Chajes, UD; Chris Locke, Lang Development; Marge Hadden, former councilwoman; Roy Lopata, former planning director; Mary Ellen Gray, current planning director; Max Walton, attorney; Lee Mikles, co-owner of Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen; Freeman Williams, NAACP and former Christina superintendent; Donna Hoke, owner of Unique Impressions; Heidi Martelock, Chemours; Linda Majewski, executive director of Newark Arts Alliance; Brian Horsey, Bloom Energy; Carla Grygiel, executive director of Newark Senior Center; Brian Tharan, Newark Toyota World; Chris Dukes, Becker Morgan Group; Frankie Vassallo IV, Fusco Management; Mike Ratchford, W.L. Gore; Carol McKelvey, Newark resident; Michael Bush, UD graduate student; and Meghan Mullennix, UD student.
Dan Rich speaks to fellow members of the Newark Partnership organizing committee Tuesday night at the Newark Senior Center.