Angie Urban has worked her way up through New Visions for Lawrence County, first as a volunteer and now as its full-time executive director since 2016.

Urban and the nonprofit agency will be working directly with the City of New Castle to help with downtown revitalization and development.

During its Thursday meeting, city council unanimously approved a contract with New Visions to have the agency become the community development coordinator for the Citywide Development Corporation of New Castle.

This move was done following the appointment of Urban as the executive director of the NCCDC on March 6 following a search conducted through the city and the NCCDC.

Urban previously served as NCCDC board chair.

“We’re excited to help fill this role for the city,” Urban said.

As NCCDC executive director, Urban will focus on grant writing, the implementation of the “Hometown Blueprint Plan” and the revitalization of downtown.

“As a City, we’ve invested in the necessary foundational pieces of planning and now it’s time to implement those recommendations,” said City Administrator Chris Frye. “The focus on community and economic development will not only help the city to exit Act 47 status, but will put us on a trajectory to succeed once we shed the distinction.”

The city received a state grant to hire the development coordinator that will cover two-thirds of the contract, while the remaining comes from city funds.

The Hometown Blueprint Plan builds upon the strategies outlined in the city’s 2015 Riverwalk Trail Plan, the county’s Forward Lawrence 2021 plan, the creation of the NCCDC and the consulting recommendations of Recast City and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in 2021.

The plan has five goals, including promoting the city, coordinating for business recruitment and retention, facilitating move-in ready business and housing spaces, enhancing the quality of life and beautifying downtown.

This plan is being overseen by the NCCDC, the city, the blueprint council and New Visions, which formed the Downtown New Castle Partnership.

Urban said these groups have been combing through all of the different plans and ideas for the city, stating now is the time to begin the implementation.

“We are excited for the addition of Angie as she brings an energy and willingness to learn, a strategy of gathering people to dream and act on what our community could be and a selfless commitment to helping sculpt the future of New Castle — our hometown,” Frye said.

New Visions was started in 2012.

“New Visions is meant to be fostering a movement for change in our community,” Urban said.

“Volunteers and an engaged community are a huge piece of revitalization, and this community is eager for action. To partner closer with the city and NCCDC allows us to focus more on collaborative projects that are larger than a group of volunteers or either entity could have accomplished alone.”

The NCCDC started in 2014 by former Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo as part of the Hometown Blueprint Plan and the city’s Act 47 exit strategy. The city has to exit Act 47 financially distressed status by the end of February 2024, which it has been in since 2007.

The NCCDC’s main goal is to strengthen and transform the city through different programs and services for economic growth.

Urban said as its first executive director, her main goals would be to help coordinate volunteers for different community projects, help with city marketing and messaging, help with communication with city council and administration and to help increase foot traffic downtown.

“We see a lot of potential downtown,” said Urban, whose position on the board will be filled.

NCCDC will work with the city to help implement a facade program to help business/property owners downtown, help work on an official rebranding campaign for the city and help develop the city-owned vacant lot on East Washington Street next to Butz Flowers as a place to host community gatherings.

“Initial steps will require attention on grant writing and thinking outside the box on how to use the resources available to us,” said Mayor Bryan Cameron. “But as the projects begin to take shape and ultimately to attract investors, the momentum will pick up. All of Council believes the partnership with New Visions is important and Angie is the perfect person to move these ideas forward.”

Urban said the NCCDC will help the city look for a main street manager, which is overseen by the nonprofit PA Downtown Center and will act as the main contact point with the downtown property owners.

“They would know every business owner. They would know every property owner,” Urban said. “They would be a coordinating agent.”

Urban said both New Visions and the NCCDC want all of New Castle, not just downtown, to be welcoming to residents and businesses and the main street manager would finally give “boots-on-the-ground” leadership roles moving forward.

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