Created in 2001, University Neighborhood Partners is the result of an explicit move by the University of Utah’s highest administration toward greater civic engagement. In 2001, the President of the University appointed Irene Fisher as Special Assistant to the President for Campus-Community Partnerships. She was tasked with developing the process and infrastructure for community engagement with the long-term goal of increasing access to higher education for west side residents.
From 2001 to 2002, Irene conducted nine months of interviews with over 250 west side community residents, leaders, organizations, city officials, and university faculty and administrators, in order to identify the critical needs and strengths of west side neighborhoods. This asset-based approach to community development focusee on existing strengths as well as placing the highest priority on needs-assessment by the community itself, not from above.
Interviews identified four critical priorities:
- To Increase the capacity of organizations and others to work effectively in the areas of housing, job training, small business development, health and environment;
- A need for greater educational and employment opportunities for youth;
- To develop greater skills and opportunities for resident leaders to be able to address local issues;
- To find ways to overcome mistrust and conflict stemming from differences of income, ethnicity, religion, race and political affiliation which divide the community and make it difficult to pursue common goals.
– Maria Garciaz, ED of Neighborworks Salt Lake, in 2015
Neighborhood residents deemed that in order for the University’s mission through UNP to be credible and sustainable, the center must be physically located on the west side of Salt Lake City. UNP is located in a residential house in the Glendale neighborhood, bordering Jordan Park and the Jordan River. This space was leased to UNP by Salt Lake City at no cost for ten years, evidence of the City’s commitment to this project. The office opened in April of 2003 with three full-time staff and a small operating budget, provided by the University of Utah and outside funders.
In 2004, UNP opened the UNP Hartland Partnership Center, an educational and community center housed in a three-bedroom apartment at the Hartland Apartments in Glendale (now named the Seasons at Pebble Creek). In 2012, The UNP Hartland Partnership Center was relocated to a 10,000 square foot building, just adjacent to the apartment complex, building the capacity for increased partner, resident, and community connections and opportunities.