CDC heads: We are not merging

David Taber

The heads of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation (ABCDC) and Urban Edge emphatically denied they are considering a merger last week following a Gazette report that talks between the organizations have included discussions of that possibility.

The two CDCs have considered various forms of collaboration, and accounts differ about whether the possibility of a wholesale merger was ever on the table, but, if it was, it was never seriously considered, Urban Edge officials told the Gazette.

“We are not considering merger with Urban Edge,” ABCDC Executive Director MH Nsangou told the Gazette. Nsangou declined to comment further.

Urban Edge President Mossik Hacobian told the Gazette that Urban Edge and ABCDC are part of a consortium of CDCs—also including Lena Park CDC and the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation—that is working with the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership on “strategies to prevent [tenant] displacement” in the over-2,600 units of affordable rental housing the organizations own and manage.

“In the course of that conversation, we are always exploring what else we can collaborate on,” he said.

But Hacobian said that a wholesale merger between the two organizations was not on the table.

Anne McKinnon, chair of Urban Edge’s board of directors, said the term “merger” had come up in conversations about collaboration between Urban Edge and ABCDC. “Initially, the consultant we were working with had a whole range of options on the table,” she said. Merger was one of those options, but it “was not favored,” she said.

Hacobian said Urban Edge has engaged in a number of collaborative efforts with different community development corporations (CDCs), and other non- and for-profit organizations over the years.

Examples he cited include a collaborative asthma prevention program with the Dimock Community Health Center in Egleston Square, and an effort in collaboration with the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation, the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, the Lead Action Collaborative and the city to remove toxic lead paint from homes where children live.

He also cited Urban Edge’s ongoing participation in a multi-developer effort to redevelop Jackson Square that includes the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, another local CDC.

McKinnon said that some ongoing conversations with other organizations about various types of collaborations are motivated by financial issues Urban Edge is currently facing. “We are talking to a bunch of [groups] still. This is about survival,” she said.

Carl Nagy-Koechlin, former head of the Fenway Community Development Corporation (Fenway CDC), Previously told the Gazette both that Fenway CDC had considered merging with ABCDC and that Urban Edge and ABCDC are currently considering a merger. In an e-mail to the Gazette last week, he clarified that he had only been describing his perception of the relationship between the CDCs at that time.

“Fenway CDC collaborated productively with ABCDC in 2008 and 2009 related to our shared interests in community-institutional relations in our respective neighborhoods. Beyond that, I really can’t speculate—and should not have in previous comments to the Gazette—about ABCDC’s goals or their vision for that collaboration,” he said.

As the Gazette previously reported, Urban Edge and other CDCs are involved in the Massachusetts Community Development Innovation Forum, an ongoing conversation about the future of the CDC movement.

“In the context of the forum, CDCs have discussed a variety of ideas and options for moving forward…and ensuring that we continue to meet our communities’ needs in the most effective way possible. Collaborations, integration of programs and operations and even mergers have been discussed by Urban Edge and other CDCs,” Hacobian said in an e-mail to the Gazette.

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