As president and chief executive of the Central City Association, Carol Schatz has been the face and voice of downtown business interests for 11 years and is the first woman to head the 82-year-old organization. Schatz took the helm after serving as the organization's legislative analyst for four years. She took over during one of the worst periods for downtown businesses, when companies were leaving in droves and development had ground to a halt. The Central City Association itself was on the rocks, with many saying it should merge with another business organization or close. Now, downtown has re-emerged with a construction and housing boom in full swing. Schatz claims a fair amount of credit for laying the groundwork for downtown's revival and vows to continue until it's truly a 24-hour community. But serious problems remain, including a lack of affordable housing, a dearth of major retail centers and a persistent homeless issue.


Question: You were the first woman to be named head of the Central City Association. Was there any resistance?

Answer: There was a little, yes. After all, this was the quintessential good old boys club for decades. With few exceptions, it was all men. But this was 1995 and we were in the depths of the worst recession since the Great Depression. We were hemorrhaging members as Fortune 500 companies were leaving. We had almost no reserves and real doubts about whether we could continue as a going concern. When the times are tough, people who have worked hard and proven their effectiveness, as I had, can rise to the top.


Q: What did you do to turn the organization around?

A: First, we had to step up our advocacy efforts, making sure we pushed measures that would help the business climate and stand up against those who would harm it. But, there was something else that was missing: a vision of what a revitalized downtown would look like. Not only was there no vision, but also I found I had to make people believe it could be done. Believe me, there were a lot of naysayers who said downtown was finished.

Q: What were the main ingredients that were needed to make this happen?

A: To revitalize downtown, we first looked at what other downtowns were doing. We toured Denver, Philadelphia and Manhattan. Whatever they had done that worked had to be molded and adapted to Los Angeles.

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