The only executive director Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA) has ever know, Doug Ritchie, has announced his retirement.
Ritchie has led the downtown BIA for the last 38 years, and won’t be leaving just yet — he plans to stay on in an advisory role for the next six months to help ease the transition between executive directors.
“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Doug for over 15 years now, first as a Downtown BIA member and most recently as chair,” said board chair Tim Pater. “The list of battles fought and won is long, while the innovations and uncanny ability to help position our downtown ahead of the curve has been a benefit to us all.”
According to a BIA press release, Ritchie was integral in shaping Kingston’s downtown core into the local and tourist attraction that it is today.
“In the 1980s Ritchie led the evolution of downtown into the retail and dining heart of the city. When chain retail stores established Kingston locations Ritchie worked with members to withstand the threat, and when large anchor stores left the downtown Ritchie successfully repositioned the downtown as the city’s entertainment hub,” the BIA said.
The BIA listed many of Ritchie’s accomplishments during his long tenure, including the redevelopment of Springer Market Square and the addition of the skating rink in the winter, the construction of the Leon’s Centre in the downtown core and the fight against a casino development in the city.
The BIA also noted that Ritchie was the first in the province to pioneer a local economic development program, which has been used to guide the organization in terms of growth, municipal liaison, business retention and business recruitment.
Among other things, the BIA also credited Ritchie for helping to create several public events, like Kingston Busker’s Rendezvous, Limestone City Blues Festival, Music in the Park, Movies in the Square and FebFest, which attract locals and tourists alike year-round.
Ritchie said his career in Kingston has been the realization of many of his dreams.
“It’s been a blast,” Ritchie said.
The BIA’s board will soon start the search for a new executive director, but in the meantime, longtime general manager Michèle Langlois will fill the role on an interim basis.