The Akron neighborhood redevelopment group University Park Alliance, whose activities came to a halt amid leadership turmoil and controversy, has settled a variety of debts for more than half a million dollars.
Thirteen creditors — who worked on community projects involving security, communications and management — received payments on Thursday totaling $632,437.57.
Board Chair David James, who is also superintendent of the Akron Public Schools, said the amounts paid were no more than half what UPA owed to the various parties.
The nonprofit group said in a statement that the moves were “significant progress in righting its financial ship.”
The city of Akron and four UPA board partners — Summa Health System, Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority and the University of Akron — contributed $316,218.78 toward the payments. The balance came from the nonprofit John S. and James. L. Knight Foundation.
The Knight Foundation, UPA’s major funder, canceled the group’s $6 million grant and a $1.8 million loan last year, saying inconsistencies and changes in UPA’s planned projects made them no longer feasible.
James said the UPA board is grateful that the Knight Foundation provided half the settlement. Knight gave $192,447 in new funds from a Knight donor-advised fund managed by the Akron Community Foundation and instructed UPA to use $123,771.79 in previous Knight grant funds that had been frozen in a Valley Savings Bank account.
The funds were released in a settlement between the bank, the city of Akron, which approved a $600,000 loan guarantee, and UPA.
The Knight Foundation declined comment.
UPA board member and past UPA board chair Tony O’Leary, who is also executive director of the AMHA, said it was a positive sign that the Knight Foundation helped.
“It’s a pleasant surprise to me that they were willing to do that,” said O’Leary. “I think that shows they have some level of satisfaction with the action the board has taken. I think it’s a huge goodwill gesture on their part. It could have been very easy for them to have said ‘We’re done’ and move on.”
James said he was also grateful to the Knight Foundation and credited Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic for taking an initiative in the matter.
The Akron Public Schools did not contribute to the settlement because by law schools may not give money for anything other than educational purposes, excluding membership fees.
O’Leary said the AMHA contributed $25,000. Other members gave various amounts.
O’Leary said AMHA owns property in the UPA neighborhood and “we see it both as a community investment and to create new opportunities for low-income people in Akron.”
The creditors are taking a loss, but “there’s been a good compromise on the part of all the vendors, given the difficult circumstances,” O’Leary said.
Summa and Akron Children’s spokespersons referred questions to UPA.
Eileen Korey, UA spokeswoman, confirmed the University of Akron Research Foundation, a private entity, contributed $50,000. The foundation was established by UA to promote research partnerships and industry collaborations.
Additionally, UA has agreed to fund existing scholarship commitments previously made by UPA to UA students at its annual luncheon. It is estimated that the remaining scholarship obligations amount to approximately $27,000 for five students.
UPA remains involved in two lawsuits regarding real estate properties for proposed projects.
“We continue to work on the future direction of UPA, including exploring the creation of a special improvement district, to help fund future work and development of the 50-block area around the University of Akron,” James said.