Urban Edge splits top jobs

February 8, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

Urban Edge has restructured its top leadership positions in the wake of a self-described “fiscal crisis” at the Jackson Square-based non-profit community development corporation (CDC).

Executive Director Mossik Hacobian, the organization’s public face for more than 20 years, will become president. Deputy Director Chrystal Kornegay will become chief executive officer (CEO). Both positions will report directly and equally to the Urban Edge board of directors.

In a joint Gazette interview with both leaders this week, Hacobian said the changes are an “evolution” from 2005, when Kornegay served as acting director while he was on sabbatical as part of a leadership-development award.

But, as the Gazette revealed last month, Urban Edge is coping with an internal financial crisis. Examining leadership and giving the board more oversight and control are elements suggested in a draft financial recovery plan obtained by the Gazette.

Kornegay said this week that Urban Edge leadership aims to submit a final recovery plan to the board for approval at its Feb. 25 meeting.

Praising the “innovative organizational model” in a press statement, Urban Edge board chair Eddie Jenkins said, “The combined leadership of the board, Chrystal and Mossik provides the talent, experience and inspiration to move Urban Edge forward and to support its projects and programs for members of this community.”

As president, Hacobian will handle public roles such as policy advocacy and fund-raising. As CEO, Kornegay will direct all programs and operations. In addition, whoever fills the now-vacant chief financial officer position will report directly to Kornegay.

“These titles may sound corporate, but I think the intention is the opposite,” Hacobian said, noting the unusual power-sharing structure. “Increasingly, we’re going to be building the depth of the team and be less hierarchical and [have] more distributive leadership.”

“It also requires a level of engagement and involvement of the board that is not necessarily traditional in the non-profit world,” Kornegay said.

“I should say, this is perhaps not that common among non-profits and even for-profits,” Hacobian said of the leadership, describing it as an experiment and possible model.

Hacobian could cite only one other organization with a similar structure: Mercy Housing, a Colorado-based affordable housing and community development non-profit led by a CEO and a president/chief operating officer.

Asked if the new structure is intended to fix some sort of flaw in the wake of the financial crisis, Hacobian downplayed the current situation and focused on Kornegay’s 2005 stint as acting director.

“This is something that’s been evolving for the past two or three years, ever since my sabbatical,” he said.

At that time, Hacobian and Urban Edge were honorees of the Barr Foundation’s prestigious fellowship program. The program sent Hacobian on a sabbatical—a way of giving a non-profit leader a rare vacation—while providing funding and technical assistance to develop other leaders in the organization. The honor includes three years of leadership development support.

Kornegay said she views the new structure as a “vote of confidence” from the board that she hopes to live up to.

“I would like to say how excited we are to take advantage of the opportunity this represents,” Kornegay said. “It’s a good thing for our community, our organization and the industry at large. As usual, Urban Edge is on the cutting edge.”

Urban Edge develops and manages affordable housing and commercial projects as well as offering a variety of programs such as foreclosure prevention. It has played a major role in revitalizing Egleston Square and is part of the team on the massive Jackson Square redevelopment.