Shopping Districts Plan Summit

Pasadena Star News, Posted: 06/04/08 08:39:06 PM PDT

PASADENA – All three of the city’s prime shopping, dining and entertainment districts will join forces this month to formulate a plan to maintain their popularity and economic vibrancy in a challenging business climate.

The Downtown Pasadena Summit, set for June 14, will bring together officials from Old Pasadena, the Playhouse and South Lake business districts, plus city officials and members of the public.

The group, with keynote speaker Kennedy Lawson Smith, will strategize on parking, public transportation, walkability, environment and design as part of the General Plan update.

Steve Mulheim, president of the Old Pasadena Management District, said he hopes everyone comes away from the summit with “an action plan, and a direction to go in.”

It’s a balancing act, Mulheim said, “maintaining economic development and keeping what historically Pasadenans have seen as a small-town downtown that really has grown into a regional destination.”

Pasadena faces increasing challenges from shopping and dining options elsewhere, including the new Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, Mulheim said.

Downtown contributes about 25 percent of the city’s total sales tax revenue, according to district officials, and as much as 12 percent of it could be siphoned off if shoppers prefer other options, especially those with free, abundant parking.

Old Pasadena has a “quaint, charming, Midwest feel, and we want to maintain that,”
Mulheim said. “At the same time, it’s not a static entity and it’s going to grow.”

Erlinda Romo, executive director of the Playhouse District, said there’s “convergence of different issues” in the city prompted by the General Plan update.

“We wanted to make sure we were prepared and have some clear, set goals in preparation for those General Plan meetings,” Romo said. “With the state of the state and the nation, and the gas-price crisis, it’s a good time to look and see if Pasadena is doing all it can to be as productive and attractive as it can be.”

Parking is a constant source of concern in keeping and attracting customers, Romo said. “Everyone is in favor of looking for ways to increase” parking, she said, “but we should do more of the carrot and less of the stick approach.”

Building public transportation connections and improving “walkability” between the three downtown districts is another concern, said Gina Tleel, executive director of the South Lake Business Association.

“We’re trying right now to make sure that we’re linked to any future public transportation plans,” Tleel said.

It’s “fairly easy” to walk to South Lake from the Playhouse District, or even from Old Pasadena, Tleel said.

“But at the summit we want to touch on the `in-betweens’ of the district, what you’re looking at when you’re walking,” she said.

South Lake will be getting a $2.6-million face-lift, starting this summer with a renovation of the median strip, she said.