After six years as director of the Downtown Association of Yakima, Washington, Andrew Holt made his way to Lawrence in early April to take over as executive director of this city’s non-profit downtown organization. LCL asked him a few questions to learn more about him and his plans for Lawrence.
What was your first impression of downtown Lawrence?
I felt it was a very vibrant and classic downtown. I could feel the energy and loved its historical nature. The fact that most of the historic buildings are maintained is amazing.
What is your vision for downtown Lawrence?
My vision is to enhance what we already have. For example, the historic buildings are beautiful, and the downtown is very walkable. I would like to improve the connection between KU and downtown to create a better sense of community. Downtown Lawrence Inc. can be a huge leader in bringing people together to solve problems and work on projects as a community.
What are the biggest challenges for downtown Lawrence?
I think that we face the same challenges as any downtown. There are still vacancies in key buildings, and property rates are high. There is a perception that homelessness is a challenge, and the city and the downtown are working on that. Downtown Lawrence Inc. is here to provide a network, a sounding board, and a resource for people.
What can the community do to help the downtown grow?
The community has to realize how important downtowns are. Downtowns are a connection to history and a connection to the identity of a city. When you walk through downtown Lawrence, there is a whole history there. It has traditionally been the town square, the meeting place, the social hub. If you understand this, you are also making a conscious decision to support independent business owners.
What are you passionate about?
I have always been a huge sports fan, and my dream would have been to be a big sports star, but I just didn’t have the athletic ability.
What was the last great book you read?
It’s not new, but the last great book I read was The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. My favorite author of all time is John Steinbeck. You just read his work because it is like eating chocolate. His writing is so good.
What movie can you quote by heart?
I used to be able to quote The Princess Bride. It’s been a while, but it always brought a smile to my face.
What is something that instantly makes your day better?
Ice cream. I love ice cream!