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Downtown L.A.'s Biggest Booster to Retire After 30 Years

Schatz to Leave Downtown Center Business Improvement District, COO Holley to Take Over
September 18, 2018
Downtown Los Angeles promoter Carol Schatz plans to retire from the Downtown Center Business Improvement District that she founded almost 30 years ago.
Courtesy of Carol Schatz

Downtown Los Angeles advocate Carol Schatz is retiring at the end of the month as president of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District that she founded and led for almost three decades, a tenure that included raising more than $30 billion in investments and changing the global perception of the center of the nation's second-largest city.

Schatz has been a force in a renaissance of downtown Los Angeles, often working as a strategist, fundraiser and cheerleader to help turn the once-desolate neighborhood into a burgeoning city center with a thriving real estate market.

Since 1999, 30,000 new housing units have been built, 10,000 units are under construction and 34,000 more have been proposed, according the group. It says it had a role in creating of thousands of new businesses and more than 200,000 permanent and construction jobs. Since the founding of the district, the population of downtown Los Angeles has grown to about 72,000 from 18,000.

Schatz founded the district as a downtown property owners group that raises funds through additional property taxes to help provide services such as economic development and marketing. It started in 1998 after she led a statewide effort to pass legislation to allow property-based business improvement districts to form.

It was a spinoff of the Central City Association, the downtown business advocacy group that Schatz had led as president and chief executive since 1995 before retiring from that group in 2016 to concentrate on the district.

Schatz, 70, said now she’s ready to take a step back from the district as well.

“It’s been a very gratifying effort running these two organizations and bringing this downtown back but it took a lot out of me,” Schatz said. “I’m not getting any younger.”

The district's executive vice president and chief operating officer, Suzanne Holley, has been appointed to succeed Schatz. Nick Griffin, senior vice president and director of economic development, has been promoted to executive director. Schatz will take on the role of president emeritus to aid with the management transition and to assist the DCBID as a goodwill ambassador for Downtown.

Schatz, a Los Angeles native, said the work to revitalize downtown isn't done yet, but she's proud of her accomplishments that include raising more than $30 billion in investment in the area to changing the global perception of the city.

"You can't define a great city by a beach, a theme park and a sign, the Hollywood sign," she said. "There is international recognition that this downtown is back and I think that's extraordinarily important."

She said she looks forward to watching the city regenerate further into a "world-class international destination" and is considering moving her residence to the area in the next couple of years.

Whether she moves or not, she's made her mark on the area figuratively - and literally.

Earlier this year, the City of Los Angeles dedicated the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Hope Street in downtown as Carol Schatz Square in recognition of her contributions to the downtown renaissance.

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