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Coppin’s development authority chief gears up for job

In late March, Coppin State University announced the appointment of Chad Williams as the first executive director of the West North Avenue Development Authority in Baltimore.

Created by the Maryland General Assembly last year, the authority aims to develop a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization plan for the area between Coppin State and the Maryland Institute College of Art by bringing together state, local and community partners.

Williams said he has already held meetings with community members and elected officials.

“(I’m) just hitting the ground running,” Williams said. “I am really looking forward to being a citizen, a partner here in Baltimore and spending time with the community and being not just an executive director but a leader and an advocate for the community.”

A Washington, D.C., native, Williams is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with more than 25 years of experience in affordable housing and economic development. He previously served as executive director of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, as chief operating officer for United Communities Against Poverty and as a consultant to the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago, among other positions.

Williams, who grew up in public and subsidized housing in Southeast Washington, said his background will help inform his new role.

The neighborhood revitalization plan must be presented to the governor and the General Assembly by Oct. 1, 2023. Afterward, the group hopes to present a rendering of what the West North Avenue target area will look like, Williams said, adding that a funding plan will also be put in place.

Williams emphasized that the authority is not just about development.

“I think you have to look at the West North Avenue Development Authority as a comprehensive tool to address all the community’s systemic challenges,” he said.

He said those challenges can be addressed by focusing on education, health and safety, recreation, public space, and arts and culture.

By working with local and state political leaders, as well as with nonprofits, Coppin State, MICA and other community partners, Williams said the authority will transform a neighborhood that has experienced systemic discrimination and disenfranchisement.

“The success of this will become a model for the nation in how we address urban challenges around housing, transportation and economic opportunity,” Williams said.