WILKES-BARRE – As a hired consultant, Larry Newman helped create the Diamond City Partnership in 2001. On Monday, Newman will become the nonprofit organization's first full-time executive director.
Newman, 43, of Wilkes-Barre, confirmed on Friday he is leaving his position as vice president of planning, policy and development for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry, where he has worked for nine years.
Newman has been a primary driver behind many of the initiatives undertaken in Downtown since 2001, including the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Improvement District, the Barnes & Noble Wilkes-King's Bookstore, the Innovation Center @ Wilkes-Barre, Elevation Lofts on Main and Wilkes-Barre Movies 14.
The move is bittersweet for me, noted Newman Friday. I have spent nearly a decade at the chamber and I'm proud of our accomplishments. But I'm excited that I'll be able to focus full time in this new position on the downtown.
The Wyoming Valley West High School graduate received a bachelor's in architecture from Princeton University and a master's in architecture from Harvard University. He said his background as an urban planner and in economic development will serve him, city Diamond City Partnership and the city well.
The Diamond City Partnership is Wilkes-Barre's public-private alliance for downtown revitalization and is supported solely by ratepayers inside what's been classified as the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Improvement District.
The owners of the 658 parcels in that zone pay an annual fee that gets them supplementary cleaning, security, marketing and facade improvement services. Those payments make up the organization's $300,000 annual budget.
Newman declined to offer his salary but said he will receive about the same payment he made at the chamber, which was also not offered by Newman when asked.
It's overseen by a 35-member board that includes executives of many downtown organizations and businesses including The Times Leader, Geisinger, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania and Riggs Asset Management.
Elizabeth Graham, chairwoman of the board and an executive at Riggs, lauded Newman's background and accomplishments at the chamber. She noted that his goal in the new position will be taking downtown's progress to the next level.
DCP has systematically achieved each of its initial goals, Graham said. Its work has made downtown Wilkes-Barre cleaner, more vibrant, and more comfortable, giving us a strong foundation from which to build.
But during the recent renewal process of the Downtown Improvement District – approved for another six years by ratepayers – Graham noted those ratepayers made it clear that they wanted to broaden the range of activities and create a full-service downtown organization.
Since Dan Block, the director of the Business Improvement District program run by the partnership, left in 2011, Newman has been serving as an interim director of that program and assisting the partnership in other ways to get it through the renewal process of the Downtown Improvement District.
His work has been well received by the partnership's board and members and the invitation was made for Newman to serve in the newly created position.