Funding for downtown partnership yet to be released
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Mar 13, 2013, 13:48
Due to a change in the agreement with the city, the Downtown Partnership has to wait another month to receive funding for their second year of operations.
Evan Kaufman, director of the Downtown Partnership, presented an update to council at the meeting on Tuesday night on the downtown revitalization efforts. Kaufman told council that through the conferences he has attended, the research he has completed, and the trends in the markets, downtown communities are making a comeback.
“Hopewell has a lot of opportunity according to the market demand right now if it is developed smartly, in the right way, with the right amenities for people,” Kaufman told council. “And so I think that’s an optimistic thing and a thing that keeps me very hungry because I see this opportunity and I see all the research and that’s what it’s saying.”
Kaufman, who has been with the Downtown Partnership since March of last year and was appointed the director in December 2012, said that a lot of what he is working on right now is building relationships with current business owners and possible future business owners.
“I think there will be some good developments in the near future,” Kaufman said.
A suggestion Kaufman presented to council at the meeting was to look into setting up an interior improvements grant to help attract more businesses to downtown Hopewell. Currently, the city has a facade improvement grant, which matches facade improvements to downtown buildings up to $10,000.
Kaufman told council he is working on several upcoming projects centered around bringing new businesses to downtown, including an “ignite Hopewell” event. He said it will be a chance for people in the community to come out and share their ideas for downtown and have networking opportunities to possibly get those ideas off the ground.
“I think people have ideas and there’s other people who are interested in the same thing, and it will help benefit the community,” Kaufman said.
Kaufman said he is also working on a new website, which he hopes to launch at the end of the month, and he is looking at starting a “buy local” campaign for the community.
Another piece to the downtown revitalization that is important, Kaufman told council, are the volunteers with the partnership.
“All of these things are coming through, and as we get more volunteers we’re able to take on more projects,” Kaufman said. One volunteer project Kaufman said the partnership is working on involves high school students, more specifically the students involved with the Future Business Leaders of America.
He told council they are working together to create a “Best of Hopewell Festival.” This festival would showcase work from those in the community ranging from artwork to music.
Kaufman also told council another large project for the downtown partnership will be a rebranding and marketing project, along with a fundraising project. He said all these pieces together, the volunteers, the website and the events, will create a vibrant downtown.
“This downtown revitalization is a process. It’s not an event. It’s not going to happen overnight. ... It’s a lot of time. It’s a lot of hard work. I enjoy it. I know a lot of other people, volunteers, are passionate about this work too and I think a lot of people are excited to see something happen and I think it just needs some time and some nourishment.”
After his presentation, Councilor Christina Luman-Bailey made the motion to release the funding for the second year to the downtown partnership. This was seconded by Councilor Brenda Pelham
Before a vote was taken, Councilor Jackie Shornak brought up that the motion was premature and said the terms of the agreement were not correct.
The Downtown Partnership, which is fiscally supported by the Interstate 295 funds at $70,000 per year for three years as per the city agreement, had stated in their contract with the city that they would become a 501(c)(3) organization. Instead, after his application, the Internal Revenue Service determined the Downtown Partnership should be a 501(c)(6) organization.
The difference between the two organizations in regards to tax deductions is, if a taxpayer provides a donation to a 501(c)(3), such as a cash donation, the taxpayer can claim a deduction for a charitable donation on federal income taxes. If that same cash donation was made to a 501(c)(6), it would not qualify as a charitable donation. However the business would still be able to deduct it because it would be part of the cost of operating the business.
Kaufman told council that while the agreement stated the partnership would get funding based on being a 501(c)(3), the partnership was better being a 501(c)(6). He said this offered the partnership more flexibility in terms of economic development.
Kaufman continued and told council he had changed his by-laws to state the partnership is now a 501(c)(6), however Mayor Mike Bujakowski said the funding was not going to be released until City Attorney David Fratarcangelo reviewed the agreement to see if the language could be changed, and when the language was changed then the conversation could be continued at the next council meeting.
“Just get it done so we can get you your money,” Bujakowski told Kaufman. “Nobody here does not want to give you your money, but we’ re covering our own rears here, but we need your help.”
With that, council all voted in favor of postponing the vote until the next council meeting to release the funds for the Downtown Partnership.