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Sarasota Tuesday, May 12, 2009 11 years ago

Downtown Association makes a comeback

by: Robin Roy City Editor

After a seven-year separation, two leading downtown groups will renew their vows.

The Downtown Sarasota Merchants Association and the Downtown Partnership are in the final stages of merger talks to once again work under the combined name, the Downtown Association.
“It’s going to happen,” said Andrea Rankin, Merchants Association president. “So many groups have run parallel to each other. Combined, we can do more.”

For 25 years, the two groups were part of the Downtown Association. Ernie Ritz, Merchants Association treasurer, said a coup formed among the board members, who took a telephone vote and ousted Paul Thorpe as the head of the Downtown Association in 2002.

The two groups then went their separate ways.

“They split their money in half and doubled their expenses,” Ritz said.

Phil Chmieleski, chairman of the Downtown Partnership, said both organizations will now be branches of the Downtown Association.

“We have no plan to scale back any of our activities,” Chmieleski said.

The Partnership will still be in charge of the Downtown Farmers Market, still hold educational luncheons and events and will still take policy positions.

The Merchants Association will still be in charge of downtown events. In fact, Rankin said the merger will help her create more events to draw shoppers and diners downtown.

The two groups started searching for joint office space May 12. They should be operating together within the next two or three months.

“It’s to no avail to work separately,” Rankin said.

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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