Leann Moore, Executive Director, The Newark PartnershipOct 08, 2021 11:13AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
To peruse Main Street in Newark with Leann Moore, the executive director of The Newark Partnership since February, is to be given a tour of the ever-changing landscape of a thriving city made up of businesses, a major university and neighbors. Recently, Newark Life met Leann at Little Goat Coffee to discuss how The Newark Partnership helps bring those communities together.
Newark Life: Let’s first explore the key components of what The Newark Partnership (TNP) does, initiative by initiative. Let’s start by talking about what TNP does in promoting economic development in Newark.
Moore: First and foremost, we are a membership organization so while we serve the whole city, we pay particular attention to our members – those in business, those in the non-profit sector, residents and students.
We work in partnership with our business members in partnership with advertising, and in helping them put on events – such as al fresco dining nights -- that help add flavor and variety to Newark and draw people to come here.
In addition, we are working with the City of Newark to help fine tune what tools we can develop that would help draw businesses here. We updated their “Red Tape Tips” document that spells out all of the things to know if you’re going to bring your business to Newark (i.e., permitting, the overall process, etc.). We also partnered with LoopLink to create an interactive map – available on our website – that provides an overview of all the commercial spaces that are available for lease or sale in Newark.
TNP also connects and supports community-based non-profit organizations. How are we seeing this component at work?
In 2019, the first step TNP took was to create a landscape analysis, and it told us that there are over 130 non-profit organizations incorporated within the nine square-mile limits of the City of Newark. Most of those do not have a brick-and-mortar location or paid staff, and most are volunteer-run, but they all provide a variety of important services.
The first thing we did was to reach out to them, and give them a space to network and brainstorm – which they never had before -- and have also provided professional development opportunities for them.
The third major component of TNP is to promote civic engagement, exemplified by TNP’s successful Newark Community Conversation Series. Out of those conversations between members, what have been some of the major concerns and issues expressed? Describe the specifics of the narrative.
In the spring of 2019, we had our first of our Community Conversation Series to narrow down what those key concerns were, and the top three concerns were public education, public housing and relations between the University of Delaware and its residents
We took each of these topics and did smaller conversations in order to get to the nitty gritty of what they were looking for instead of assuming what they like and do not like. In regard to issues about public education, we continue to relay that information to the groups who are already working in that arena.
Regarding housing and city-university relations, we put on smaller programs that highlight things that those who are concerned about the issue can actually do in order to make a constructive impact. We have student representatives from student government associations at the University to try to get students and their neighbors to talk to one another, and facilitate conversations around topics that both are interested in – including the economy, sustainability and equity.
What’s the progress being made on those three components?
While 2020 may have been difficult to make the progress that we wanted because of COVID-19, it allowed us to hone in to understand what people want from us – and that is to be a resource for them, to be able to turn to us and find the information they are looking for or be able to ask a questions and get a quick response.
I think that’s the largest accomplishment that TNP has made in the last two-and-a-half years – to be that resource. By listening, we’re not just developing resources because we think it’s a good idea. Rather, we’re hearing that from the public.
Where does TNP take the results of what these conversations have yielded, in order to potentially facilitate change?
We hear a lot of different ideas, so our board and our committees focus on what is most feasible for us to do right now, and what needs to be placed in the “parking lot” list of what can be addressed later.
What we’re hearing right now from businesses, non-profits and residents is that they want a more diverse economy, meaning more mom-and-pop businesses and fewer chain stores and restaurants. We are developing a process to hear what remain the biggest roadblocks and concerns as to why a business wouldn’t want to develop a business in Newark. We then share these results with City Council.
For many Newark residents, having a large university in their backyard connects them with a wider culture, and to the vibrancy of education and activities. For other residents, the University of Delaware is an overwhelming presence that just keeps getting larger. For some, UD is too big to fail, and for others, UD is too big. TNP has heard both sides of that argument, so how do you become receptive to both sides of the conversation?
It is a double-edged sword. The University brings a lot of value, innovation and access to services that would not be here otherwise. Part of what TNP does is to highlight those areas that are easily accessible to the public that they may not know about.
On the flip side, we hear that there are other parts of the University that are not known to the general public, so we work with the University administration to try to highlight those areas and bring more clarity to the public on how decisions are being made. We have a designee from the University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis on our board, who hears these conversations and brings them back to the administration.
What are the primary areas of concern that residents are expressing about the University of Delaware?
Many have told us that the pricing of public housing is much higher than many believe it should be. Many residents cannot afford to live in these units, while most students are able to. There are also concerns that the off-campus footprint of this housing is expanding further and further into the traditional family neighborhoods.
I think these concerns can be addressed not just through the University administration, but by connecting students who live in these neighborhoods with the residents who also live there -- to create free and open dialogue that will allow residents to express their concerns with the students.
Albeit with several roadblocks in its way, we are very slowly beginning to reemerge from COVID-19, but over the past year, many of us have come to look at the concept of “community” in ways we hadn’t before the pandemic. Have you personally – and in the capacity of your role as TNP’s executive director -- begun to look at the definition of “community” differently over the past year and a half?
I don’t think I defined “community” any differently because of the pandemic, but I think I came to value it more. It was almost taken away in many aspects last year because I wasn’t able to meet new people and talk with people as easily.
TNP’s ultimate vision is to make Newark the best place to live, work and play, but it’s not just applied those who live and work here, but to students who may only be here nine months a year and for just a few years. It’s also applied our K-12 students – the next generation of Newark – who we would love to see become the backbone of our future and pick up the mantel when they graduate.
In terms of “community,” I am seeking out ways to highlight and amplify the voices of our underrepresented community members who aren’t typically being heard. TNP is helping to represent the School Hill neighborhood working with them in the incorporation and 501-C3 process. It’s important to help preserve some of the history of that historically black community.
What is your fondest dream for the future of Newark?
I want Newark to be a really fun and vibrant community of innovators, whether that be in business or non-profit leadership. I would love to see some University of Delaware students – whether they are originally from Delaware or come here for college – stay here and incubate a cool business.
A large part of TNP’s role is to attract that kind of energy, to make sure that all areas of Newark are connected and supported, and to help others hone in on ideas and eventually help them launch them.
What is your favorite spot in Newark?
It might be cliché, but it is Little Goat Coffee, where we sit right now, because it’s the culmination of that vision I just described for the future of Newark. You have these innovate entrepreneurs who get trained in coffee roasting (co-owners Joe and Elizabeth Lins and Olivia Brinton, who also serves on the TNP Board of Directors) elsewhere and then bring that idea to Newark.
You throw a dinner party. Who will we see around that dinner table?
The first name that comes to mind is Sophia Bush of “A Work in Progress,” a podcast I really love listening to. Everyone else around the table would be my four grandparents – and then their parents, my great grandparents. Some of them have written down their life stories and one grandmother even made a recording of her perspectives on life.
I would love to sit around a table and enjoy their stories spoken to me out loud and in person.
What items can always be found in your refrigerator?
Always, always, always, you will see eggs and sriracha. You can always make a nutritious meal using these two ingredients.
To learn more about The Newark Partnership, visit www.thenewarkpartnership.org.