Neighborhood Allies names its first executive director

Neighborhood Allies, the new organization which sprung from the remnants of the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, has named Presley Gillespie its first executive director.

Gillespie, who will take the lead at Neighborhood Allies in mid-May, leaves the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation in Youngstown, Ohio, where he served as its CEO for the last five years.

“I’ve long admired Pittsburgh as a rust belt city that’s really begun to stabilize and begin to grow,” Gillespie says. “I’m really excited, and I’m very familiar with the challenges these neighborhoods face.”

“At his core, Presley is very results-driven,” says Laurel Shaw Randi, co-chair of Neighborhood Allies’ board of directors. “Because he has the ability to attract so many resources, you know things will get done and get done well.”

During his time in Youngstown, Gillespie turned the organization from a start-up with a $200,000 budget into a nationally recognized neighborhood development player with a $3.1 million operating budget. Prior to his stint at the YNDC, Gillespie spent 18 years in the banking industry, where he focused much of his effort on community development lending and revitalization.

“He’s really an expert at building relationships,” Randi says, adding that a great deal of his work in Youngstown saw him bring not just local and regional foundations to Youngstown’s community development table, but national ones as well. “When we were interviewing him, he came and spent several hours touring different neighborhoods and seeing our transitional and distressed neighborhoods. He’s quite familiar with the dynamics of these people and places, and he’ll be able to hit the ground running.”

Neighborhood Allies, which launched late last year, is considered by its founders as an all-new organization that was formed after PPND ceased in 2012. Between 1983 and 2012, the PPND was often the initial catalyst in spurring cooperation between community organizations and businesses looking to maximize their investments in community redevelopment.

Allies will work with community organizations and non-profits to help optimize their budgets, goals and outcomes, and they will work with foundations, banks and corporations to help them create strategic approaches in their community development investments.

“As I’ve gotten to communicate with the leadership and board, I believe that they fundamentally believe in leading to help all neighborhoods and fostering change where systemic blight and vacancy exist,” Gillespie says.

The PPND had an annual operating budget of $2.5 million in 2012 and distributed about $1.5 million in grants to community development efforts across the city. Now, Neighborhood Allies will look to serve as that funding superconductor, working with a vast network of residents, business owners and corporations to affect genuine change in under-served and distressed neighborhoods.