The Middle Neighborhoods National Steering Committee was formed in 2019 to determine the methods, structure, and resources to sustain a long-term effort that brings attention and support to America’s middle neighborhoods. The Steering Committee is comprised of 20 members, including prominent practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and funders working at national, state, and local levels.

The Steering Committee advises the National Community Stabilization Trust and provides input to NeighborWorks America in their leadership of the middle neighborhoods initiative.

Members of the Steering Committee include:

Lori Schwarz, Director of Neighborhood Services, City of Plano (Chair)

  • Schwarz, AICP is the Director of Neighborhood Services for the City of Plano, which includes the BEST Neighborhoods, Community Services and Property Standards Divisions. Schwarz previously held the position of Plano’s Comprehensive Planning Manager. Prior to moving to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2013, she served the City of Galveston for 12 years in multiple roles, including Interim Director of Planning and Community Development. Schwarz’s professional experience includes: strategic and comprehensive planning, historic preservation and neighborhood planning, coastal and environmental planning, disaster recovery planning, land development regulations, grant management and code enforcement. Schwarz is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and a Texas Registered Code Enforcement Officer.

Nelson Beckford, Program Director, Cleveland Foundation

  • Beckford is the Program Director for Neighborhood Revitalization & Engagement. He rejoins the Cleveland Foundation in January 2018 after spending the last four years at Saint Luke’s Foundation, where he served as Senior Program Officer for Strong Neighborhood. In that role, Beckford oversaw their Strong Neighborhood program, with the goal of making enhancements to the built environment and improving social conditions in the Buckeye-Shaker, Mt. Pleasant and Woodland Hills neighborhoods. Before that, Beckford served as Program Officer for the Cleveland Foundation’s Responsive Grantmaking, focusing on community development, environmental sustainability and program management of the Summer Internship program.

Paul C. Brophy, Senior Adviser, The American Assembly; Principal, Brophy & Reilly LLC

  • Brophy is a principal with Brophy & Reilly LLC, a Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in economic development in older industrial cities, mixed-income housing, neighborhood revitalization, and currently serves on the Adjunct Faculty of the Urban & Regional Planning Program at Georgetown University. Brophy has been involved with the challenges facing older industrial cities since 1970 as a public official, a practitioner, an author, and a professor. A critical basis for his work were his ten years in city government in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1977-1986) where he was director of housing and then executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. A leader in the Renaissance II initiatives of Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri, Brophy’s work included downtown revitalization, the reuse of vacant steel mill sites, and the strengthening of the City’s neighborhoods.

Nedra Fears*, Executive Director, Greater Chatham Initiative

  • Fears is an economic development expert who specializes in strategic planning, financial modeling, community development financing, and program management. Fears’ work at GCI advances business, workforce and housing development locally and connects three business clusters to the region. At GCI, Fears created a new Chatham Center Chicago, a branded commercial retail area that has an accompanying online directory of 200 merchants and service providers. Recently she secured a MacArthur Foundation and Exelon Corporation grants for GCI. Previously, Fears developed and secured partial funding for two community development corporation plans a $37 million 38-block plan for a Detroit neighborhood; and a $17 million nine-block plan for an Atlanta neighborhood. Fears is a Harvard Loeb Fellow.

Johnette Richardson, Deputy Director, Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore

  • Richardson is currently the Deputy Director for Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore, a community development financial institution that sparks renewed vitality in neighborhoods by engaging community partners, increasing sustainable homeownership, and advancing innovative capital solutions. She is a frequent speaker at local and national training institutes and foundation convenings on topics related to neighborhood revitalization and community economic development.  An advocate of volunteerism, Richardson served as the president of the board of directors for Afya Baltimore, Inc., a Baltimore City public charter school organization. She currently serves on the City Leadership Committee for the Community Development Network of Maryland and the Community Initiatives Advisory Committee for Neighborworks America. She is a Greater Baltimore Committee Leadership graduate, completed Bank of America’s Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Leadership program, and is a past Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Fellow. In 2012 she was named one of the Daily Record’s Leading Women; in 2017, she was named one of Associated Black Charities’ Women on the Move; in 2018, she was named the Daily Records Maryland’s Top 100 Women. Prior to receiving her master’s degree in Business Administration from Regis University, Richardson earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Morgan State University.

Deborah Moore, Director of Neighborhood Strategy and Planning, NHS of Chicago

  • Moore has served as a director for Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago for over two decades, bringing her mission-based passion and proven grassroots leadership to each of the communities that NHS has impacted during her tenure. As Director of Neighborhood Strategies and Planning she directly oversees the growth of urban neighborhoods, south suburban municipalities, and place-based initiatives that affect her and the organization’s vision for change. Often positioned as a bedrock member of community leadership, Deborah was a vital element in Chicago’s transition through the Great Recession and subsequent economic revival in the greater Chicagoland footprint. In 2007, Ms. Moore was awarded the Community Hero Award by the Greater Auburn Gresham Community Development Corporation for her innovative work and continued commitment to the Auburn Gresham Community. In 2019 she was selected by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to sit on the Chicago Plan Commission to further lend her expertise and grassroots connections for further re-invigoration of Chicago’s communities of color. She continues to amplify the voices of resident leaders and neighborhoods through leadership roles on diverse committees such as the NeighborWorks American Community Initiatives Advisory Committee, the University of Chicago’s Housing Sub-Committee, and with many locally based organizations across Chicago’s south, west and south-suburban areas.

Kamla Lewis, Director of Neighborhood Revitalization, City of Shaker Heights, Ohio

  • Lewis is the Director of Neighborhood Revitalization for the City of Shaker Heights, a first ring suburb of Cleveland, Ohio and is nationally known for its historic architecture and commitment to diversity. Her role encompasses a broad range of responsibilities, including housing policy development and advocacy, neighborhood engagement, attracting private investment in new and existing homes, and developing creative ways to maintain the competitiveness of a community with a hundred year old housing stock. Lewis is a graduate of both Princeton and Cambridge Universities, with an academic background in political science and development economics. She has over 30 years of community development experience, working at municipal, county, regional and international governmental agencies on issues related to housing, transportation, food banking, economic development and strengthening neighborhoods. She has served on several non-profit boards and is currently on the boards of Policy Matters Ohio, and the Shaker Heights Development Corporation, and also volunteers with the Princeton Prize in Race Relations.

Jason Powers, Director Middle Neighborhoods Initiative; Cleveland, OH

  • Jason Powers is the Director of the Middle Neighborhoods Initiative for the City of Cleveland where he has served since April 2019. The initiative was co-developed by the Cleveland Foundation as part of a city led partnership to provide long term strategic support within municipal government. Prior to his work with the City of Cleveland, Powers was the Director of Marketing and Development at the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation. There he worked with his development team on projects to support their middle-income community focusing on place based marketing, data driven pilot programs and a public health lens to community development. Before returning to Cleveland he worked at NeighborWorks America in Washington, D.C. as the National Public Affairs and Communications manager supporting a network of over 250 community development nonprofits. His work took him around the country to support partner organizations in their communications strategy and neighborhood positioning efforts. Earlier in his career Powers served as legislative advisor to Congressman John W. Olver the Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on HUD and DOT. He holds degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University Kelley School of Business and the City University of London.

Jenny Hope, Executive Director, Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC)

  • Jenny Hope joined HEBCAC after serving as the Director of Neighborhood Programs at Healthy Neighborhoods, Inc. Prior to Healthy Neighborhoods, Hope was a Project Manager at Telesis Baltimore Corporation working on rental and homeownership redevelopments in the Barclay neighborhood, before becoming Director of Neighborhood Programs at Healthy Neighborhoods, Inc. in Baltimore. Prior to Telesis, Hope was a Project Manager for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Legacy and Neighborhood Business Works programs. She was also the Executive Director of Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity.

Amber Lynch, Executive Director, Invest DSM

  • Lynch, AICP, is Executive Director of Invest DSM, a unique collaboration between Des Moines and Polk County, bringing a renewed commitment to neighborhood revitalization in the middle neighborhoods in the city.  Prior to Invest DSM, Lunch was a Senior City Planner for Des Moines, Iowa, where she has worked in the city’s Neighborhood Development Division since 2008. Lynch’s primary role was to work with neighborhoods to develop short range revitalization plans. She also worked on streetscape projects, numerous regional planning initiatives, and served as the overall project manager for Viva East Bank!, overseeing the implementation of three neighborhood plans and managing a coalition of nearly 30 partner organizations. She also led efforts to redesign Des Moines’ Neighborhood Revitalization Program to improve its effectiveness. Lynch serves as a board member for the Iowa Chapter of the American Planning Association and a member of the American Institute of Certified planners (AICP).

Marcia Nedland, Principal, Fall Creek Consultants

  • Nedland is the principal of Fall Creek Consultants. Nedland is known for her skills and passion for neighborhood strategy and neighborhood branding and marketing.  Nedland is an award-winning trainer at the national NeighborWorks Training Institute on topics related to neighborhood stabilization, marketing and sales. Nedland also coaches nonprofits in the use of Success Measures data collection tools to evaluate neighborhood quality of life outcomes. Nedland also organizes the Middle Neighborhoods Community of Practice alongside two other experienced community development professionals. 

Rachel Meadows, Director of Policy and Legislation, Councilwoman Cherelle Parker

  • Meadows is the Director of Policy and Legislation to Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle L. Parker. She is responsible for advising the Councilwoman while developing and implementing her policy initiatives, performing policy research and drafting legislation, and analyzing the annual budget proposal for the City of Philadelphia. Prior to working for the Councilwoman, Rachel worked on strategic communications, policy outreach, and strategy for PolicyLab, a research center at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Prior to that, she held other jobs in both city government and the nonprofit sector.

Pamela Puchalski, Executive Director, Open House New York

  • Previously, Puchalski was Executive Director at the American Assembly. Prior to joining The Assembly, Puchalski led a civic consultancy advancing forward-looking models for inclusive growth, city-to-city learning, and collaboration. Working in the US and internationally, she has designed and implemented initiatives for urban resilience, neighborhood revitalization, economic development, and competitiveness. Her work helps cities and communities persevere and prosper in the face of a growing list of threats linked to climate change, economic instability, and inequality. Ms. Puchalski was part of the founding team for Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities where she led the effort to develop resilience strategies through community-based approaches and public-private-civic partnerships. She launched the Global Cities Initiative at Brookings Institution to help American metro regions pivot their economies towards increased engagement in world markets. She also played an instrumental role establishing LSE Cities and managing the Urban Age program at the London School of Economics.

Paul Singh, Vice President, Community Initiatives, NeighborWorks America

  • Singh leads NeighborWorks America’s support for comprehensive community development efforts that build vibrant local communities that provide equitable opportunities for people to thrive. Singh oversees the Stable Communities, Community Building and Engagement, Rural and Healthy Homes and Communities Initiatives and the work of these teams to elevate and strengthen local practice through grant making, technical assistance, capacity building, peer-to-peer learning, demonstration projects, stakeholder convenings, and research. Prior to joining NeighborWorks in 2012, Singh was a Program Officer at LISC where he managed multiple programs delivering technical assistance and training to nonprofits. Singh got his start in community development at Historic Saint Paul, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the historic character of his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jeffrey T. Verespej*, Executive Director, Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation

  • Verespej is the Executive Director of Old Brooklyn CDC, serving the largest neighborhood in Cleveland with over 30,000 residents and assets such as the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and MetroHealth. Under his leadership, the corporation was named the 2017 CDC of the Year by the Ohio CDC Association. In 2016 the organization established an innovative community healthy strategy that blends public health and community development. It has facilitated the redevelopment of multiple historic buildings in the neighborhood, launched a successful weekly summer festival, and initiated a cross-sector education program. He supervises and manages all functions of the corporation that includes real estate and economic redevelopment, community organizing and service delivery. Prior to joining the CDC, Verespej spent four years at Ohio City Incorporated as the Director of Operations and Advocacy. He is the Past-President of the Case Western Reserve University Alumni Association (CWRU BA ’07, MBA ’11) and a former Chair of the Leadership Council for the Cleveland Leadership Center.

Charles Buki, President, czb LLC

  • Before establishing czb, Buki was a consultant to the Millennial Housing Commission, a Mesa Fellow at the Common Counsel Foundation, a senior staff member of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, the Director of Housing for The American Institute of Architects, and a project manager for several nonprofit community development corporations. He was a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies at Harvard University. Buki is currently a board member of the International Sonoran Desert Alliance in Ajo, AZ, serving in an advisory capacity to the Marian Jackson Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Frank Woodruff, Executive Director, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA)

  • Woodruff joined the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) in September 2010, becoming executive director in January 2012. During a time of significant political and economic challenges for community development, Woodruff saw this as an opportunity to take NACEDA to a new level of success and sustainability. As our country emerges from the great recession, he believes community and economic development will be a critical tool for those communities and neighborhoods that are organized, demanding, and capable of instituting change.

Jessie Grogan, Senior Policy Analyst, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

  • Grogan joined the Planning and Urban Form department in July 2016, with a broad portfolio of urban development activities, including work on scenario planning and spatial inequality. Prior to that, she worked as a Policy Analyst at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the Regional Planning Agency for Greater Boston, from 2007-2016. At MAPC, she was the co-author of The State of Equity in Metro Boston Indicators Report and Policy Agenda; was involved in drafting the MetroFuture regional plan; and helped lead the creation and management of Metro Boston’s Sustainable Communities Consortium, formed with a grant from HUD to implement the MetroFuture plan.

Joseph McNeely, Board Member, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA)

  • McNeely is a nationally known expert and consultant on community development and a veteran community organizer. He is currently president of Metroscape Development, a real estate development firm focused on Baltimore city. From 2006 to 2015, he served as the organizer and first Executive Director of the Central Baltimore Partnership. He was the founding executive of Baltimore’s South East Community Organization (SECO) and Southeast Community Development Corporation before serving at the national level in the Carter Administration. He then was for 20 years the President of the nationwide Development Training Institute (DTI), which national columnist Neal Peirce called”the country’s premier trainer of CDC (Community Development Corporation) leaders.” He was Co-facilitator of the Weinberg Fellows program for nonprofit executives at the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center. He serves on many boards including the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA). More recently, McNeely is an author in On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods (2016).

Patrick Jordan, VP Enterprise Advisors, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.

  • Jordan joined Enterprise Community Partners in 2012 to manage the field work with Enterprise Advisors. He concurrently served as deputy executive director for the National Resource Network, which partners with American cities that are recovering from major economic challenges to help them identify and implement new and practical solutions on their path to economic recovery and growth, through on-the-ground support, peer networking activities, and access to on-demand online expertise. Previously, Patrick worked in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He focused on national policy development incorporating local best practices into national models and building the capacity of distressed communities to understand and address their local housing markets. 

Darlene Russell, Senior Program Officer, Greater Milwaukee Foundation

  • In her current role as Senior Program for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Russell leads leadership development, place-based strategies, philanthropic investments designed to strengthen neighborhoods and economic opportunities for children and families. She also directs several grant programs designed to respond to the needs of communities. Prior to joining the foundation in January 2011, Russell worked with a number of organizations to help increase college access to students in the greater Milwaukee area. Russell is an alumnus of the Cardinal Stritch African American leadership program. Russell is an author in On the Edge: America’s Middle Neighborhoods (2016).

*Co-Chair, Middle Neighborhoods Community of Practice