University UNITED plans to downsize

Posted on 15 July 2012 by robwas66

Facing a tough fundraising climate, University UNITED is moving ahead with a plan to downsize and have a virtual office. Community partners were notified of the decision to close the office last month. UNITED, which has led various University Avenue initiatives for more than 35 years, will focus on creation of living-wage manufacturing jobs. UNITED will become a virtual office, shutting down its storefront at 712 University Av. this summer.

According to Board Chair Stuart Alger, budgetary constraints and a challenging fundraising environment are driving the change. The organization will be less dependent on grant funding and more dependent on revenue it generates through development projects. It will operate for a time with volunteers.

The UNITED Board is seeking feedback and suggestions on its new role, and has been contacting community partners to discuss the changes. Area district councils that have long been members of UNITED’s boards have been discussing the proposed change since last year.

Over the past several months UNITED has shut down its various initiatives, including the University Avenue Business Association (UABA) and U-Plan, an urban planning services office. While UABA could continue as an all-volunteer group, the end of U-Plan was seen by many neighborhood groups as a huge loss. U-Plan was involved in a number of initiatives along the Central Corridor light rail line and in community planning processes, including work on plans for Merriam Park in conjunction with the Union Park District Council Parks and Recreation Committee. While the U-Plan documents and resources may go to the Asian Economic Development Association, UNITED has had to find homes for files accumulated over decades.

“It’s the end of one era and the beginning of another,” said UNITED Executive Director Brian McMahon. He and the UNITED Board are working on environmentally friendly or “green” manufacturing proposals for properties in the West Midway, working with the St. Paul Port Authority, property owners and community groups.

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