Revitalizing a Community through Property Ownership

Walters, J.

Ruth Wise and her colleagues have put their formerly disenfranchised neighborhood on the map. Through engaging community residents, buying property and creating sophisticated financial negotiations, they have brought long-sought sewers and home ownership to residents of New Road. Begun in 1992, the organization embraces the following approaches: Be Ambitious and Stick to It: New Road's pursuit of a "wild" $8 million revitalization plan shook up the entire community. When New Road bought large amounts of property from absentee landlords, it "gave them the hiccups," according to Wise. Importantly, the group gained essential leverage. Gain Allies: Through strategic partnerships with broad-based community development groups and foundations, Wise and her colleagues get both technical support and essential funding. Present a Truly United Front: New Road’s board and leadership represents all walks of New Road life, including youth. They meet regularly, welcome input and make themselves known to public officials. They've built true community ownership that policymakers cannot dismiss. Retain Autonomy: The organization, for example, turned down a half million dollars that would have restricted its ability to make decisions.