Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Evan Kaufman and I?m the Executive Director of The Hopewell Downtown Partnership. I have a BA in Political Science from VCU and an MA in Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution from IDC in Herzliya, Israel. I am originally from Los Angeles, but have been in the Richmond area on and off for the past 12 years. I have lived abroad in both China and Israel, and speak Mandarin Chinese (at least enough to get by). I currently live in Jackson Ward and am really enjoying the Richmond area.
What is the focus of your work, the need you are addressing?
The focus of my work is to help revitalize downtown Hopewell utilizing the nationally recognized Main Street four point approach. This strategy, which blends historic preservation with economic development, is a grassroots approach to revitalization empowering individuals with the tools and resources to make meaningful change in their community. We work on everything from historic property rehabilitation to planning community events and festivals. Downtown Hopewell?s historic district has suffered many years of neglect and disinvestment brought on by suburban sprawl, malls, strip centers, etc. and we are trying to reinvigorate this once thriving, historic portion of the city.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding part of this work is the impact it has on the community. Over the course of three years, I have witnessed the communities own perception of itself change from one of apathy and disdain, to one of optimism and hope.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment in this position?
The biggest accomplishment to date has been the award of a $400,000 matching grant from the Governor?s Industrial Revitalization Fund to assist with the rehab of the community?s largest derelict historic structure in order to convert it into a new coffee shop, art gallery, art studio spaces, and event space.
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?
A major challenge faced on a daily basis is being able to coordinate many different projects with multiple partners including local government, developers, investors, and property owners. A major lesson learned has been that revitalization and economic development are not something that happens overnight. Everything takes time, especially dealing with government entities, and that change is a process, not an event.
What?s coming next for your organization that really excites you?
We are very excited about our inaugural farmer?s market taking place on November 22nd which is intended to be more of a mini-festival than just a farmer?s market. This will be the first run before we implement a weekly market festival in the spring of 2015. We are also working on a $15 million redevelopment that will provide quality housing and lofts so people can live above businesses in downtown.
How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?
ConnectVA helps our organization stay up to date with happenings of other non-profits in the region and has provided an invaluable tool in providing professional and leadership development resources.
Anything else you would like to share?
People can find out more about the revitalization that is currently underway in Downtown Hopewell through our website at www.hopewelldowntown.com