The organization that promotes downtown retailers and businesses is without a director, and the reasons aren’t clear.
Jane Pennington confirmed Tuesday evening that she no longer is the director of Downtown Lawrence Inc. But Pennington declined to comment on the reasons behind her departure.
“I don’t think it is in the organization’s best interest for us to air our dirty laundry in the newspaper,” Pennington said.
Mary Cox, president of the Downtown Lawrence Inc. board and an owner of Shark’s Surf Shop, 813 Mass., sent an e-mail to DLI board members Tuesday informing them that Pennington was no longer associated with the organization. She said information about Pennington’s departure would be provided at a board meeting next week. Attempts to reach Cox were not successful Tuesday evening.
Pennington had been the organization’s director for the past three years and had worked to add more events in downtown. During her tenure, Downtown Lawrence added an outdoor film festival, a Busker festival, and recently she had spearheaded the organization of the Downtown Lawrence Arts District and its Final Fridays event.
Dan Hughes, an owner of Sunflower Outdoor & Bike Shop, 802 Mass., said there have been some concerns that the organization was becoming too geared toward promoting downtown as an entertainment district rather than a shopping district.
“I kind of feel like there has been a shift downtown to an arts and entertainment district,” said Hughes, who had been on the organization’s board until the beginning of this month. “I look at other arts and entertainment districts, and you don’t see a lot of specialty retailers.”
Mark Swanson, an owner of Hobbs, 700 Mass., and a current board member of DLI, said he hopes such a conflict isn’t behind the departure.
“As a retailer, I think the Final Fridays and the art functions that are going on are great things,” Swanson said. “They have provided tremendous atmosphere and energy to downtown. It has been nothing but good for downtown.”
Downtown Lawrence Inc. receives both private membership dues and will receive $42,500 in city funding in 2011.