Sheila Somashekhar Named Director of Purple Line Corridor Coalition


The Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC) has tapped Sheila Somashekhar, a seasoned community change maker, as the coalition’s inaugural director. Somashekhar brings over 15 years of experience in community organizing and engagement, specializing in economic strategy, social justice, affordable housing, neighborhood asset building and workforce development. She most recently served as the Director of Community Impact and Engagement for United Way of the National Capital Area. Somashekhar joins the PLCC effective July 1, 2020.

“Sheila has a proven track record for bringing people together in ways that result in lasting, tangible change,” said Gerrit Knaap, director of UMD’s National Center for Smart Growth and co-chair of the PLCC steering committee. “We are thrilled to have her lead the coalition’s efforts and apply that experience to chart our path moving forward.”

Somashekhar has extensive experience developing community-based initiatives in Washington, D.C. and New York City, and has built a reputation for creating successful stakeholder collaborations that result in pathways to employment, financial independence, and neighborhood resiliency. She established United Way’s role as a community resource for financial capability through community-centered programming, including free tax preparation programs and the launch of one-stop financial service centers across the Washington, D.C. area. She also helped raise over $1M in support of that work. At the New York City Housing Authority, Somashekhar helped launch a new economic opportunity platform for the agency, supporting residents in public housing to participate in economic and job growth taking place in their neighborhoods. A UMD alum who later obtained a Master of Urban Planning and Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan, Somashekhar comes to the PLCC knowing many coalition players and more importantly, what is at stake.

“I see in the Purple Line a rare opportunity for a major transit infrastructure project to bring economic growth without displacing residents,” said Somashekhar. “As PLCC’s Director, I am excited to mobilize partners to realize that vision.”

Formed in 2013, the Purple Line Corridor Coalition comprises community organizations, state and local governments, nonprofits, philanthropies and businesses whose mission is to develop a vision and strategy for vibrant economic and community development along the Purple Line Light Rail. The PLCC is administered by the University of Maryland’s National Center for Smart Growth.

Press Contact: Maggie Haslam, 202-258-8946

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