When Fred Baranowski accepted the head position at the Downtown San Diego Partnership, he left behind more than 26 years of banking experience.
But he will not be stepping into unfamiliar territory, and his financial background won’t be put on a back burner either.
One of the top qualifications for the job, noted partnership Chairman Nikki Clay and Baranowski himself, is the ability to manage the present and future financial bearings of the partnership and its newly formed $2.4 million Property Based Improvement District.
“I’m hopeful the discipline and skills that I used in banking will carry over to the partnership job,” said Baranowski, former senior vice president and San Diego regional manager for City National Bank, who will take charge at the Partnership Oct. 2. “It will demand different management skills than the job required in the past.”
Although there are other qualifications and duties that go along with the title of president, Clay said Baranowski’s financial grounding is an added bonus.
“We are very pleased that Fred Baranowski, one of Downtown San Diego’s most dedicated, effective and compelling advocates, has opted to step away from his successful banking career in order to devote full time to the Downtown San Diego Partnership as our president,” Clay said. “Fred’s many years of proven experience in working with governmental agencies and officials, business and community groups, cultural, educational and nonprofit organizations on issues that affect Downtown and our entire region are exemplary.”
The partnership’s mission is the advancement of downtown San Diego as the leading economic, cultural and governmental center of the county through leadership, advocacy and education on issues affecting partnership members and the prosperity of Downtown.
Transitioning into the “full time” role at the partnership isn’t expected to be a difficult task for Baranowski. He’s been involved with the partnership and one of its predecessors, the Central City Association, since 1989.
Most recently, he was a member of the partnership’s executive committee and served as chairman of its board of directors in 1996.
The new president plans to continue the work outgoing president Laurie Black accomplished over the last couple of years.
The partnership has tackled issues such as Downtown improvement, safety, redevelopment and homelessness.
It’s no secret one of the top issues facing Downtown is the development of the East Village surrounding the Padres ballpark , already under way but facing several hurdles in the process.
“To me the project that will demand the most attention is the ballpark,” Baranowski said. “Obviously we’re at the crossroads right now and we need to get beyond that. This is too important of an issue to let dangle.”
Although the ballpark project is expected to enhance the renovation of the East Village, it is not making it easier to deal with the homeless population throughout Downtown. It’s one challenge Baranowski said is not going to go away overnight.
“We’re seeing it happen right now when the homeless who have been solidly entrenched in the East Village have been misplaced,” he said. “They are moving to the west and to the north. It’s going to take the cooperation of a lot of different groups to solve this problem.”
If all goes as planned with the programs and projects projected or under way, Baranowski said over the next two or three years there will be a completely new Downtown. He said he’s glad he looked in the mirror before applying for the partnership post and told himself he was the man for the job.
“It was a tough decision because I enjoyed banking, but I feel there’s no better time to be closely allied with Downtown than now,” he said. “Downtown is in the midst of a fabulous renaissance.”
In addition to his work in banking, business and on behalf of the partnership, Baranowski has been active for more than a decade in economic, civic, cultural and youth-recreation pursuits.
From 1990 to 1997, he served on the board of directors of the San Diego Incubator Corp., and as chairman of the board in 1994. He has been a member of the board of directors of the San Diego Rotary Club since 1992 and has just completed a term as club president.
In 1996, he was part of Mayor Susan Golding’s task force for the ballpark planning. The mayor also appointed him to a task force in 1997 to help revive the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.