Northland News

Nonprofit mall

United Way, Columbus Foundation pony up $10,000

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The effort to found a nonprofit mall for organizations and agencies that operate in the Northland area recently received a monetary shot in the arm.

Northland Alliance Chairwoman Joyce Bourgault said last week that officials with the Columbus Foundation and United Way of Central Ohio have each agreed to fund some initial work for the project.

The total grant is for $10,000, Bourgault said, with the funding being split 50-50 between United Way and the foundation.

"We've really got a lot of support behind this now," she added.

The seed money will help with the eventual development of a formal business plan for a centralized location to house the offices or satellite offices of nonprofits that serve Northland-area residents.

"The first phase is a pre-planning phase, then we will be writing the business plan," Bourgault said.

She cautioned that many more phases have to follow before a building -- perhaps one as large as 100,000 square feet -- is fully funded and under construction.

"It's not a done deal until you get into that fifth phase, which is the capital campaign," she said. "That's the tough part. That takes time -- to get the confidence of your investors in what you're doing.

"We've got some people interested in what we're doing, but until you get your business plan, you can't count on anything," Bourgault added. "We're cautiously optimistic, put it that way."

The nonprofit mall concept has grown out of a continuing series of meetings that Bourgault, executive director of the Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center free clinic, has been convening since May 2011. The goal has been to explore ways in which agencies can better serve Northland residents in need and avoid duplication of efforts.

"The more we keep talking about what's going on, the more people want to be part of it," she said.

Already, she added, letters of intent have been receive from several boards of directors of nonprofit agencies indicating their willingness to participate in starting and operating the proposed mall.

"I think we've got what we need to have a significant impact," she said. "I think we're at 10 now, although they are not all moving their whole organizations.

"That feels pretty good, too, to have that confidence from all these boards."

The steering committee that has been formed to concentrate solely on the nonprofit mall will meet with representatives of New Day, a consulting firm out of Eau Claire, Wis., who have helped create a similar center elsewhere, Bourgault said.

The meetings will take place July 9 and 10, and Bourgault said some city officials have agreed to participate.

"We're really pretty excited about it," she said.

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