Lucas eager to build on downtown momentum

10/29/2013

New Downtown Vision director a past board president.

New Downtown Vision director a past board president.

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Nicole Lucas, newly appointed Downtown Vision executive director, said Monday she is ready to start her new job.

She knows she better be.

"It's going to be a challenge. We're constantly changing downtown, so it's never boring," she said. "It's exciting. We're definitely going to have to hit the ground running because we've got all kinds of stuff going on."

Sunday, the Downtown Vision Board of Directors announced Lucas as its new executive director, replacing Beverly Schmitz Glass, who accepted a public relations position at Garden City Community College about a week ago.

Lucas starts Nov. 11 and will work with Glass on getting up to speed before Glass's last day on Nov. 20.

"Bev's been kind of a one-woman show for seven years. I mean, there's a lot of stuff she does — I know a lot of what she does — but there are so many details that she and I are going to have to hammer out," Lucas said.

Lucas, whose term as Downtown Vision board president ended this past June, was approached about the position last week. It wasn't a difficult decision.

"I've been interested in downtown, and been involved with Downtown Vision six years. It was kind of one of those things where it was not too hard of a decision," Lucas said.

Last week, Downtown Vision officials indicated they would hire an interim director initially while searching for a permanent replacement. Apparently, the board decided Lucas was the best fit.

"It was important to the board that we had a smooth and quick transition from Bev to our next director," Matt Kirchoff, board vice president/treasurer, said in a press release announcing Lucas' appointment. "We are incredibly fortunate to have Nicole, who has served on the board as both the president and treasurer, step up to take over the executive director leadership as we continue our work in revitalizing the central business district. It's just a good fit."

"We have a lot of things coming up, and I don't think anybody on the board wanted to put it off," Lucas added.

Lucas said her association with Downtown Vision started with serving on the organizational committee, then the board of directors four years ago, where she served as board treasurer and president for two terms.

"I'm very passionate about downtown," she said. "Bev has done a great job maintaining relationships with community partners, and obviously I want to maintain that. There's a lot of things we want to do as a board. Obviously, Downtown Vision's main commitment to downtown was to fill store fronts, and we still have some empty ones, so our job's not done there."

Some of the things coming up include the Banner Art auction this weekend, relocating Downtown Vision offices to a new location near Seventh and Laurel streets, and bringing more than 200 economic development and Kansas Main Street directors to Garden City in April for a quarterly training conference. "We're going to be jumping in with both feet, for sure," Lucas said.

One item on Downtown Vision's plate will be working with the city on implementing the Downtown Master Plan that was completed a few months ago.

"We're going to meet with the city to figure out what our role in that will be," she said. "We're very excited about that. It's nice to have a direction."

Glass said she thinks Lucas is ready for the challenge.

"What Nicole brings to the table at this point is not only board and budget experience but a working knowledge of the Main Street program," she said. "Having taken an active role in the growth of the organization over the last six years and participating in the Downtown Master Plan sessions, she's in a good position to help again define and lead Downtown Vision as it locks in on economic development in the central business district. She will need to make this next step in Vision's growth her own, and that is both an exciting and challenging undertaking."

Ongoing challenges continue to be filling empty storefronts and bringing new business and opportunity to downtown.

"We're not adverse to a chain store coming downtown, but we sometimes get limited by space. Right now we have a number of huge buildings — Buffalo hotel, State Theatre — that we would love to get one of those going. It would be huge for downtown," she said.

Currently, Lucas is a realtor with Coldwell Banker Real Estate Shop. She will be putting her license on hold to concentrate solely on her job as Downtown Vision executive director.

Lucas graduated from Kansas State University in 2003 with a bachelor of science degree in accounting. A native of Hanston, Lucas has extensive experience as a bookkeeper, having worked in that capacity at Triple L Farms and Ink't Graphics. She also serves on the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce's governmental affairs committee, the St. Dominic School PSO and Church Social Commission, and has served on the Buffalo Dunes Golf Course advisory board.

She and her husband, Tanner, have two daughters, Makenzie and Breckyn.

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