Nichols to leave HBA in strong positionAround the City, Online Only, Top Highlights Thursday, August 15th, 2013
BY THOM SENZEE
Saying he has worked in the world of non-profit management long enough and wants to try something different – namely, the world of for-profit, corporate business – Hillcrest Business Association executive director, Benjamin Nichols officially announced his resignation Tuesday at HBA’s monthly board of directors meeting.
“I’m ready to try something new,” Nichols told San Diego LGBT Weekly. “I’m going to work with a San Diego company that produces events similar to some of the things we’ve been successful doing at Hillcrest Business Association.”
Hillcrest Business Association is a business improvement association (BIA; sometimes called a business improvement district, or BID). BIAs and BIDs might fairly be characterized as quintessential public-private partnership organizations.
Nichols led the HBA through tumultuous yet inarguably prosperous times for the organization during his four-year administration.
“Sometimes you have to shake things up to make good things happen,” Nichols said. “I’m OK with the fact that we’ve made waves and that it hasn’t always been smooth sailing – as long as we’ve done right by the business and residential communities of Hillcrest.”
And, according to many, he has.
“I think this organization is exemplary as far as what a BIA should do for the community,” said local merchant Morgan Freeman. “When we approached them about our ideas to help brand Park Boulevard near University (Avenue) ‘the Egyptian Quarter’ and the home of fashion, art and food in Hillcrest, we found Ben and the board to be very excited to hear new ideas.”
In fact, during HBA’s monthly board meeting, Freeman (no relation to the actor of the same name) and a fellow “Egyptian Quarter” business owner were granted $4,000 to produce a movie-night event featuring classic, Egyptian-themed films, such as Ben-Hur along with booths for local merchants, artists and vendors – as well as food from local eateries.
Nichols’ legacy includes events such as CityFest (which attracted an astounding 150,000 attendees this year, according to an initial report from the organization), Hillcrest Hoedown, Mardi Gras (to be rebranded as Fat Tuesday next year) as well as the advent of a 60-foot Hillcrest Pride Flag and monument coming soon to the flag’s base at Pride Park.
One major complaint, however, has been that HBA is too insular, favoring the interests and wishes of a core group of insiders on the board, while leaving others in the cold.
Last year, LGBT Weekly reported that an electrical contractor and HBA member claimed his company was passed over for a contract in favor of another non-member contractor preferred by certain HBA board members, allegedly because of political alliances outside of the organization. That contract award was eventually invalidated by the board.
An exact departure date for HBA’s current executive director was not known at the time of this writing.
Nevertheless, as he departs, Benjamin Nichols leaves behind a vibrant HBA that appears to be flush with cash and on an apparently sound financial footing.
Visit LGBTweekly.com and read San Diego LGBT Weekly for updates about who will replace Nichols as well as other news about Hillcrest Business Association coming soon.
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