New Directions for Downtown

Gary Walton

Calling his new direction, “GDBA 2.0,” fledgling Downtown Business Association President Gary Walton promised greater coordination with community partners, and sharing of expertise to other downtown merchants.

“The revitalization of any downtown is a marathon not a sprint,” said Walton, whose been a part of the downtown community for nearly 20 years.

Saying 2016 was “great for downtown in many ways,” Walton also acknowledged that “retail is becoming much more difficult,” for all merchants from big box stores to smaller shopping centers. Considered bellwethers for the industry, Macy’s, Sears and Kohl’s announced disappointing holiday sales the first week of January as online sales continue to grow and consume more of the retail sales pie, with Amazon being the biggest beneficiary.

“Our organization has to adapt and step up to help downtown merchants figure out how to adapt as well,” he said.

Walton said he wants the GDBA to strengthen partnerships with City Hall and community groups, spotlighting the Arts Alliance, Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, Demonstration Garden, and Historical Society.

“We need to break down whatever silos existed in the past and build productive partnerships so we all move forward,” he said.

Many of the year’s goals will be hashed out at the organization’s upcoming board retreat, which will be facilitated by the Director of the California Main Street program, of which the GDBA is a member.

The program, with its committee structure and focus on design, organization, promotion and historical preservation, has been used to great effect in Paso Robles, which was visited by a group of downtown supporters and property owners, including Walton and Montes. “The program has worked pretty well for them,” said Walton. “Though it’s been going for more than 30 years. We need to look at best practices and see what works for us.”

Outgoing board president, Brian Dauenhauer, said he expects 2017 to be a great year for downtown, “The city is being a better partner working with different groups; I’m really optimistic about what’s coming.”

Also elected were downtown property owner, Jose Montes, who was named vice president and merchants, Michele Campbell, Sandra Castañeda, Lynne Mosley, who join the board.

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