New leader takes helm of Downtown Partnership - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

New leader takes helm of Downtown Partnership

April 26th, 2018 development
New leader takes helm of Downtown Partnership

By Colleen Sparks, Staff


A veteran energizer of urban downtowns who is passionate about boosting their economic vitality has been named the new executive director of the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership.

Mary Murphy-Bessler is replacing interim executive director Nancy Hormann, who took on the role temporarily after former director Beth Fiorenza left.

Murphy-Bessler has been revitalizing downtowns for nearly 20 years.

She spent two years as the vice-president of economic development for the Mill Avenue District, which is now the Downtown Tempe Authority.

Previously she worked for 12 years as the executive director of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority in Longmont, Colorado, from the late 1990s to 2010.

“I personally believe that Chandler is probably one of the most authentic communities in the Valley,” Murphy-Bessler said. “It has great character. Chandler is a very well planned-out community; it definitely shows that the community supports its downtown.”

She also sees “great potential” in the area.

“There’s a lot of new projects currently under construction or coming our way in the near future,” she said. “There’s a good healthy momentum happening in the downtown.”

But Murphy-Bessler says she can’t energize any downtown alone.

“No single entity can do it alone; that’s why many entities have these special districts is because they’re spread out having to service the entire community,” she said.

“Having a small organization like the DCCP helps focus more directly into the downtown area. That’s our role and that’s how we can partner with everyone.”

Terri Kimble, president/CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, looks forward to working with Murphy-Bessler.

“The Chandler Chamber is very excited that Mary Murphy-Bessler will be leading the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership,” Kimble said.

“I know Mary believes in a strong relationship between the Chamber, the City and the downtown merchants – that to me is very exciting. I feel that together, we will have great success promoting our businesses and drawing visitors to Chandler’s downtown.”

Peter Sciacca, chairman of the Chandler Community Partnership Board, echoed Kimble’s sentiments.

“We are fortunate to have Mary join the team and look forward to a long successful partnership as she moves forward helping Downtown Chandler reach its full potential,” Sciacca said.

Downtown Chandler Community Partnership is an enhanced municipal services district. These districts offer services beyond what the cities offer by helping to make them clean and safe and by marketing efforts. They are paid for by the property owners in their boundaries.

Murphy-Bessler, who has a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, wore many hats when she worked as the executive director of the Longmont Downtown Development Authority.

She managed a special tax district by doing long-term planning, as well as marketing and promotions and maintenance and infrastructure and parking management.

Murphy-Bessler also directed merchant and property owner outreach programs and economic development initiatives via public-private and capital projects.

In her economic development work with the Longmont Downtown Development Authority, Murphy-Bessler managed a façade improvement program that leveraged $400,000 in public money to $9 million in private investment.

The authority provides business and property owners many incentives to support maintaining and enhancing historic buildings in the Downtown Longmont District. Façade upgrades included landscaping and design but not signage.

“Depending on the scope and scale of the project, we’d be able to award them a certain percentage of (the) cost of doing the façade,” Murphy-Bessler said, adding:

“We looked at those dollars in terms of overall projects. We were a partner in terms of the overall project of that building. It really enticed a lot of redevelopment projects. We tried to manage it as much as possible to spread the wealth throughout the downtown area.”

Since moving to Arizona in 2010, she has worked in various downtowns, including most recently in her position as the downtown specialist for Scottsdale.

Prior to that, she worked for about two years as the vice-president of economic development for what is now called the Downtown Tempe Authority.

While at the Tempe organization, Murphy-Bessler got involved in a big nighttime economy study, which she said examined “how to better manage the downtown district.”

She also focused on business attraction and retention in downtown Tempe.

“I think we had some really good dialogue in terms of trying to grow and develop a healthier mix of the businesses, attracting new businesses that would support exiting businesses,” Murphy-Bessler said.

Having dialogue is an important part of her work in her new position and she’s learning as much as she can about the area.

“I always believe in feet on the street; work hard in talking to as many people as I can, from the property owners and the businesses in the downtown area to our community leadership,” she said.

“And, of course, all of our city leaders and just really get a lay of the land and be able to strengthen as much as possible the initiatives that are currently underway,” Murphy-Bessler continued, adding:

“I just believe in always continuing to keep a good healthy strong dialogue with your downtown property owners and merchants and your city leadership; keeping that conversation going and definitely to show your value.

“In regards to the DCCP we really need to continue to share what our goals and objectives are and to show our value to the community and to the business and property owners in downtown Chandler.”