The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Oakhill Jackson/New Bohemia creates its own neighborhood redevelopment corp. despite City Hall-endorsed one with $1.5 million in public money

In Floods, Neighborhoods on April 9, 2009 at 3:19 pm

City Hall two weeks ago orchestrated the creation of a non-profit Neighborhood Development Corp. and, it turns out, a neighborhood can create one of those corporations, too.

That is just what has happened.

Eight people sat in a conference room at Horizons family-services agency, 819 Fifth St. SE, on Thursday morning and created the Oakhill Jackson New Bohemia Neighborhood Development Corp.

In the creation, the eight elected officers: Dale Todd, president; Scott Jamieson, vice president; Michael Richards, secretary; Fred Timko, treasurer.

Board members also in attendance were Chuck Hammond, Peggy Whitworth, Mel Andringa and Ed Young Jr.

Todd is a former City Council member, past president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, and currently an associate of Des Moines developer Jack Hatch, who has plans to build the Oakhill Jackson Brickstone Apartments along Sixth Street SE.

E. Scott Jamieson is the CEO of the Horizons family services agency; Richards is president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association; and Timko is president/CEO of Point Builders Inc. and developer of BottleWorks Loft Condos, 905 Third St. SE.

Hammond is CEO at Raining Rose Inc.; Whitworth, retired former director of Brucemore; Andringa is co-founder of Legion Arts; and Young is enterprise manager at the African American Museum of Iowa.

The new non-profit entity has come to be because its board members say they want to get redevelopment moving in the flood-damaged Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood — it contains the New Bohemia arts and cultural district. City Hall hasn’t gotten such redevelopment moving, the board says.

The new board of the new corporation — the name is so long it’s tempting to settle for OJNBNDC — is well aware of the other neighborhood development corporation, the City Hall-endorsed Neighborhood Development Corp., which the City Council created on March 25.

And the new group is well aware, too, that the council has funneled $1.5 million in state funds to the corporation it has endorsed. It is money that will be used to pay a director, Carol Bower of Des Moines, to set up an office here and begin to look at buying up property for redevelopment with a focus on commercial redevelopment.

But so what, the new neighborhood corporation’s members say.

After its meeting Thursday morning, Jamieson said the neighborhood’s own development corporation can work in concert with whatever or whoever is working to help the city recover from the 2008 flood.

But he said the neighborhood’s own upstart corporation can bring “clarity” to the job at hand and get the work started without waiting on City Hall. The corporation can benefit the City Council and is willing to take the council’s help, but it doesn’t need to depend on it, Jamieson said.

Raining Rose’s CEO Chuck Hammond said the new group believes “we’ve got to do something else.” “There are significant needs unmet,” he said.

Jamieson’s helping-services agency employs 90 people in the neighborhood and Hammond’s company employs 65 there.

On Thursday, the board said it wanted to position itself to qualify for federal and state funding as a local nonprofit group.

The board also took steps to make improvements at what has been known as New Bo Park, which sits to the south of the BottleWorks Loft Condos and the WaterTower Place condominiums next door.

The board will assume ownership of the park for now while BottleWorks will make improvements to it and maintain it. BottleWorks’ Timko said the development budget for the loft condos includes money to fix up the park.

The OJNBNRC also committed to a neighborhood cleanup of stray glass and nails, and will call on local AmeriCorps members to help out.

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