NEWPORT BEACH : Merchants Weigh Plan to Improve Business

Where is downtown, and how do its business owners pull it out of an economic tailspin?

About a dozen business owners took the first steps toward answering those questions in a meeting Wednesday morning with city officials, who hope to encourage local merchants to band together and improve their commercial districts.

"We don't have one main street. We have so many, who do you pick to help?" City Manager Kevin J. Murphy asked the group.

While the problem might seem obvious to some people, what to do about it is another matter.

The key, according to Murphy, Mayor Clarence J. Turner, Economic Development Committee Chairman Rush Hill and consultant Edward Henning, is for merchants in each commercial district to bring in professional, mall-style management.

If the idea takes root, business owners in each district would get together to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their area, formulate plans and pay agreed-upon amounts into assessment districts to fund the management of each area.

Reaction from business owners was wary but generally favorable.

Business owner Joey Evans said she was encouraged by the possibilities of a business improvement district in central Balboa.

"I think it's a great idea and that finally people are waking up and smelling the bad stench," she said.

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