Residents of Akron’s Cascade Village to lead their community’s future with $1.7 million from Knight Foundation

AKRON (May 5, 2011) Residents of Cascade Village – once one of the most troubled and impoverished areas in this city – will come together to build a community as welcoming and engaging as its new homes and tree-lined streets. The effort will be supported with $1.7 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Once the oldest public housing project in Akron, today Cascade Village comprises 250 new homes populated by a mixed-income community working together to improve their neighborhood and each other’s lives. The Knight Foundation support will help create opportunities and activities that connect residents with one another and to a vibrant, healthy community.

The resident-led effort will provide career and financial coaching, improve school and youth programming and bring the community together so that neighbors can help each other solve problems

Combined, these efforts will engage the community in sustaining its physical transformation.

“Trusting people to lead their own solutions makes communities more adaptive and resilient,” said Paula Ellis, vice president of strategic initiatives at Knight Foundation. “Frequently, resident-led plans are more effective than those developed by external organizations. People engage when the approaches are holistic, based in real-life experience and not technical solutions driven by ‘experts.’”

Jeannie Wilson, a Cascade Village resident and community organizer, said,  “When I heard about this program, I got really excited. I couldn’t help but think that my neighborhood would be like the one I grew up in – where everybody knew each other, and looked out for each other. You didn’t have to go outside for help.”

The Community Builders, which has a strong track record of developing and managing affordable housing and mixed-income communities redeveloped Cascade Village in 2006, in partnership with the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, which obtained a federal HOPE VI grant to fund the revitalization. The Community Builders will implement the community-building and resident-services program with the Knight Foundation funding.

“Those working in the arena of affordable housing must begin to think more broadly about our mission and obligations,” said Patrick Clancy, The Community Builders’ president.  “We can’t rebuild communities by focusing only on bricks and sticks.  We have to rebuild the social capital and the neighborhood networks that support families and healthy neighborhoods.”

“The Community Builders has constructed a beautiful neighborhood. Now it wants to create a thriving community,” said Jennifer Thomas, Akron program director for Knight Foundation. “This program will help create an environment where neighbors can more easily come together to transform their neighborhood.”

About The Community Builders Inc.

TCB, one of the nation’s foremost developers of mixed-income communities, has been a leader and innovator in the nonprofit, affordable housing field for more than four decades. It has produced more than 25,000 units in 324 projects in 15 states. Its mission is to “build and sustain strong communities where people of all incomes can achieve their full potential.”

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

Contacts:

Patrick Clancy, President, The Community Builders Inc; 617-695-9595; pclancy@tcbinc.org.

Marc Fest, Vice President for Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, fest@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.