Edmondson served more than 10 years as the CEO of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, which supports arts and nonprofits in the Pikes Peak Region. She’s the foundation’s only employee, and she said the board of directors will meet this week to determine who will take her place when she moves to the Downtown Partnership on March 4.
“There is almost nothing that could have lured me away from the foundation — other than this position,” Edmondson said. “I’ve always had a passion for downtown.”
Since she moved to Colorado Springs for a position at The Gazette in 1991, Edmondson has lived downtown.
“I work downtown,” she said. “I shop downtown. Friends and family fun time is always downtown.”
Edmondson was selected from among more than 70 applicants.
“We were extremely impressed with our candidate pool,” said Sam Eppley, president of the Downtown Partnership board of directors and owner of Sparrow Hawk Gourmet Cookware. “The bulk of the people were local and the ones that weren’t local had strong local ties.”
Eppley said there was a strong focus on filling the position quickly, yet taking the time to fill the role with just the right candidate. He said the board had narrowed the field to three highly qualified candidates and ultimately chose Edmondson because of her passion for downtown and her history in similar roles.
“She’s all about downtown,” Eppley said. “She also is a person who is a strong leader and strong collaborative leader.”
Before leading the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Edmondson worked at The Gazette for 12 years, including seven as the Arts & Entertainment editor. She co-founded the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region — COPPeR — and has chaired boards of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, CASA, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and the Downtown Development Authority.
She stepped down as the DDA board chair following the CEO announcement.
“I think downtown is at a tipping point,” Eppley said. “There are a lot of projects going on now and a lot of diverse ideas about what to do downtown. It’s going to be Susan’s job to coordinate all of that.”
He says he believes Edmondson is up to the challenge. After years of people talking about wanting to develop an organization focused on advancing the arts scene in the Colorado Springs area, Edmondson was able to make it happen with COPPeR, Eppley said.
It’s a trait she recognizes in herself.
“I have a track record of not just talking about things, but really getting them done,” she said.
Edmondson knows a lot about what’s happening downtown — the various projects people are working on and ideas floating around town. Driven to get things done, she led the charge as chair of DDA to pay for an Urban Land Institute advisory panel to spend a week in town over the summer and provide a roadmap to a downtown renaissance.
“Now we have a tangible plan to move forward,” she said.
Among the panel’s suggestions was to create a downtown champion. The panel suggested the Downtown Partnership could be that champion and suggested the board look critically at its staffing and leadership. Shortly after the final panel presentation in October, former CEO Ron Butlin stepped down. Hannah Parsons, a real estate agent and downtown advocate, has been the interim CEO since early November.
Edmondson says she plans to bring different organizations and stakeholders together in her new role and build new partnerships with organizations from the arts community to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the CVB. She would like to see downtown continue to develop the city’s brand association with health and wellness through relationships with downtown retailers and businesses like Title 9, Mountain Chalet, Lulu Lemon and City Rock as well as sports events and strategic partnerships with governing bodies headquartered here.
The thing she’d most like to see downtown: “People, people, people.”
“We need daytime shopping and night-time dining,” she said. “I’d like to see our parks filled with families. I’d really like to see it possible for more people to live in the downtown core.”
She doesn’t intend to add a lot of new fuel to the fire, but rather to build on the existing momentum behind improving downtown.
“It’s not so much about what we’re going to do,” Edmondson said, “but how we’re going to do it. We’re going to be more open and inclusive.”
She hopes the Downtown Partnership can clear away barriers for anyone wantings to do business downtown, from large developers looking to build apartments to mom-and-pop business owners.
“They told me I was hired to be a game-changer,” Edmondson said.