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Published: Thursday, 5/17/2007

Lagrange, NorthRiver form alliance

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After 18 months of planning and soul-searching, Lagrange Development Corp. and NorthRiver Development Corp. yesterday announced the groups' "strategic alliance" called United North.

More than 100 people packed the St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center auditorium for the announcement, which also served as a recruiting session for the two community development corporations.

Already two of the stronger community groups in the city, Lagrange and NorthRiver decided to chart unexplored territory for a local CDC in hopes the new alliance - and political muscle - will bring more resources and projects to improve two of Toledo's oldest neighborhoods.

The corporations touted past efforts, which have brought over 400 new and rehabilitated homes to North Toledo and over $40 million in economic development investment.

"I don't think there is any other community in this city that comes together like we do," Terry Glazer, executive director of Lagrange Development, told the audience. "We have so much to be thankful for, and this is an example of what I'm talking about."

Julia Bryant, president of the Lagrange Development board and vice president of the new United North board, stressed United North is not a merger because both groups wanted to maintain their own identities.

"These organizations were strong by their own right," Ms. Bryant said. "By pulling them together, we're hoping to accomplish so much more. With limited funding opportunities to work in our communities, we knew we had to do something different."

Michelle Bush, president of Corporate FACTS in Plymouth, Mich., was hired to guide the two corporations through the alliance process. She told the crowd Lagrange and NorthRiver will need the support and input of the neighborhoods to make the alliance successful.

The meeting drew the attention of various political leaders, such as Toledo Councilmen Mike Craig, Joe McNamara, and George Sarantou, Toledo Board of Education member Robert Torres, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, and county Auditor Anita Lopez.

Mr. Gerken said he felt Lagrange and NorthRiver are ahead of schedule because of the strength of the two groups and the fact that they have done joint projects before.

"I'm excited because I think we've already started," Mr. Gerken said. "It's just in pieces right now. I look around this room and I see community leaders, people from housing, the religious community, people from health care, and from the neighborhoods. I see some political leadership. You got a lot of pieces in the room today. You got to just weave them together."

Business owner Amber Hawkins said those businesses can play a role in a strategic plan if it is supported in the community.

Safona Harris, a North Toledo resident with two teenagers, said she hopes United North will try to provide outlets and programs for youth. She said many teens are looking for positive outlets in the neighborhoods.

"[The youth] need examples, and we don't have that in the community right now because most of their parents are young people," Ms. Harris said. "They are babies of teenagers themselves. I see a lot of [youth] getting involved in things because there is nothing to do. A lot of them just retain that hurt and act it out."

Rebecca Martinez said there has to be a way to accentuate the positive attributes of North Toledo.

"There are so many good things that happen [in North Toledo] and people need to praise them and celebrate them more often than the negatives," she said.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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