Doug Ritchie steps down from Downtown Kingston! after 38 years

Doug Ritchie, Executive Director of the Downtown Kingston! BIA, announced his resignation from the role on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. File photo by Tommy Vallier.

The inaugural Executive Director of the Downtown Kingston! Business Improvement Area (BIA), Doug Ritchie, has stepped down from his position, the BIA announced on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

Over his 38 year career, Ritchie saw the organization grow from a small member services agency into a large, highly-active association.

Tim Pater, chairman of the Downtown Kingston! board of management stated, “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with Doug for over 15 years now, first as a DBIA member and most recently as chair. Our membership has been extremely fortunate to have had such a staunch ally who overcame formidable challenges to assure the well-being of our downtown. 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. We enjoy a vibrant and successful downtown that is the envy of many. If any single person could be given the credit, not only for the survival of our downtown but also for its ability to thrive and prosper, under the most challenging circumstances, it would be Doug Ritchie.”

Notable successes during Ritchie’s career include the evolution of downtown into the retail and dining heart of the city during the 1980s and repositioning the downtown as an entertainment hub after losing large anchor stores in the downtown core. Long range projects that were involved with these successes are the redevelopment of Springer Market Square, including constructing the skating risk, supporting and promoting the Leon’s center’s downtown location, and leading the efforts to stop the development of a casino in Kingston.

Ritchie often speaks at industry conference and events, and is known as a BIA pioneer, and industry expert. Downtown Kingston! was the first BIA in the province to create an economic development program, and employ a person solely dedicated to that role. The program itself has been used to guide the organization in terms of growth, business retention, municipal liaison, and business recruitment. Studies Ritchie proposed over the year include land use inventories, market studies, annual pedestrian and vehicle counts, and vacancy listings which have been used as advocacy tools for new developments in the downtown core, the BIA explained.

The Heritage Week Awards, which recognize renovations to existing buildings, or construction of new building which are in step with Kingston’s fine old architecture, were a partnership Ritchie struck with the Frontenac Heritage Foundation. This award draws attention to the importance of heritage buildings and the need to preserve them.

The seasonal schedule of public events is perhaps what Downtown Kingston! is best known for. The recurring series of events, which include Kingston Busker’s Rendezvous, Music in the Park, Limestone City Blues Festival, Movies in the Square and FebFest, were developed under Ritchie’s leadership and are popular attractions for locals and tourists alike.

Ed Smith, long time board member and past chair stated, “I want to wish Doug the very best in whatever the future holds. Doug’s contribution to Downtown Kingston’s success over the past 38 years was immeasurable. Doug is a strategic thinker; he built the relationships necessary to keep Kingston’s downtown relevant and strong no matter the economic environment. Doug Ritchies are rare these days, he won’t be easily replaced and he leaves a huge mark in the heart of our city”.

For his part, Ritchie states his career in Kingston has been the realization of turning dreams into reality and his personal satisfaction in making a significant difference in the city. “It’s been a blast”, says Ritchie.

The Executive Director position will be filled, and General Manager Michèle Langlois has agreed to assume the duties of the role on an interim basis.

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