GREEN BAY - A day after city leaders and a group of business owners called for leadership changes for On Broadway, Inc., the group's board backed its current leaders.
On Broadway's board of directors met Thursday and that’s where the vote of support came from -support for the president, executive director and the rest of the board.
On Broadway is the nonprofit organization whose goal is the development of the near west side district.
Controversy started brewing when reports surfaced of the possible interest by Walmart in property near Leicht Park next to what was once the Larsen Canning Company.
About 20 businesses, among the more than 100 businesses and organizations in the Broadway District, are claiming the On Broadway board has lost sight of its goal to promote the district as a place to do business.
While On Broadway leaders acknowledge the concerns, they say the betterment of the district is always in the forefront.
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"Of course there's been a knee jerk reaction. I think there was also disappointment among the merchants that we had to find out about it through the Internet or through various media sources, rather than from our own business improvement district,” said Larry Frye, String Instrument Workshop.
Larry Frye has been repairing stringed instruments in the Broadway District for the better part of 30 years. The last 17 at his Broadway storefront.
Frye is one of 18 business owners who signed a letter, calling for a vote of no confidence for the On Broadway board, its president Greg Larsen and executive director Chris Naumann.
The letter stems from On Broadway's talks with Walmart about a possible project in the Broadway District.
Such development talks are often kept confidential as a part of the planning process.
Thursday morning, the board gave a unanimous vote of confidence for both Larsen and Naumann.
"The businesses are reacting - we get that. They're passionate - we get that. We really appreciate that. But now everyone has to calm down and we have to have a good talk about this,” said Naumann.
Naumann says since Walmart approached On Broadway about developing the Larsen Green site, the non-profit has to do its due diligence.
The brand is a firebrand. You're going to have that natural, knee jerk reaction - wherever you go and by many people, not just businesses. From that standpoint, not surprised by that reaction and we expected that - to be very honest,” said Naumann.
Right now, Walmart has not offered a proposal for the old cannery site. The property currently zoned for a mixed use of commercial, office and residential.
“The ball's in their court. What they come back to us, officially, will be where we start discussions. Anything else is premature,” said Naumann.
Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt and City Council President Tom DeWane also wrote letters calling for a change in On Broadway leadership.
DeWane says he's not surprised by the board's decision.
Mayor Schmitt told us the concerns business have raised about On Broadway are valid.
“I think that shows that that board's a little disconnected with the wishes of the businesses. And I think that there's a pretty strong groundswell that the businesses are looking for more out of that board and the leadership,” said Schmitt.
Naumann says On Broadway is working to address the concerns of Mayor Schmitt and business owners.
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