A Look at LookofskyPosted: March 31, 2011
It’s 2 a.m. and the ice cream is melting – Kathryn Lookofsky is at Kroger wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt, red hair spilling out of a baseball cap, no makeup on and ready to check out. Then, a downtown merchant who just happens to be there walks up and asks her a question.
“I’m really never off work, which is irritating,” Lookofsky said. “But I’m not complaining. I love what I do.”
Lookofsky plays a key role as director and CEO of the Athens Downtown Development Authority in all things concerning economic development downtown, and part of her job is that she’s always on the job.
She explains her job this way:
“I walk that bridge between the downtown business community and local government,” she says. “I help get information back and forth, and help make sure both pieces work well together.”
The latest example of her work is the oversight of a seven-story parking deck being built on the corner of Lumpkin and Washington next to the Georgia Theatre, which will be using $6,768,205 in SPLOST funds appropriated in 2005 as a part of Project 28 of that year’s SPLOST referendum.
“We have the ability to issue bonds, and that’s what we did to finance the parking deck for the ADDA part of it,” Lookofsky said. “It was a bond issuance of just right over $6 million. They’re revenue bonds, so they’ll be paid back over time with revenue from the parking deck.”
The new deck is a three-way venture between the ADDA, Athens-Clarke County and a development company called Batson-Cook.
“The easiest way to think about that, to wrap your head around that is to kind of think of it like a condominium development, where you buy an apartment in the condominium, or a unit,” Lookofsky said. “You don’t own the whole building. So the way it’s set up now, the county owns the actual land that the building sits on. Batson-Cook owns the retail and the office parts of the building, and then the county, or the parking services, owns the parking aspects of it. It’s a lot more complicated and detailed than that, but that’s the crux of it.”
And the goal of the deck?
“The goal would be to provide more parking downtown,” Lookofsky said. “That’s not a smartass answer, that’s really the goal. We’re building it for more parking. I think last count was 520 or 540. I don’t remember exactly.”
Last year, the total operating budget for downtown Athens collected as revenue was $281,000.
“We have a downtown tax district, that’s the ADDA district, and there’s a millage rate for all the property in that district,” Lookofsky said. “We get part of the money for the property taxes in that district, and last year it was about $150,000. So that’s one way we get money. We also manage the downtown parking system, and we get paid a fee by the county to manage the system, and that’s $100,000 a year. Plus, we get a bonus if the revenues are beyond what was projected, so that just encourages us to do the job better. The bonus is part of our operating budget.”
Lookofsky, a Georgia native, came to this work after returning from a position in another state.
“I managed a small town in New Hampshire,” Lookofsky said. “I worked for the city of Decatur, worked for the city of Jonesboro, and eventually wound up in Athens. I actually love Athens. I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be. It’s a great town.”
Lookofsky makes the most of her job by working with others holding her position around the state.
“I know the woman that does my job in Augusta,” Lookofsky said. “I talk to the people in Savannah and Decatur more than anybody because they’re the most similar – we have more in common with the issues we face and the problems we face. We definitely compare notes and steal ideas and copy each other.”
She’s really never off the clock outside of the professional world.
“Even when I go on vacation out of town, I’ll be taking pictures of manhole covers or street lamps and thinking of things we could try out here,” Lookofsky said in an Athens Banner-Herald article on Oct. 31, 2008.
Being close to home is not much different when it comes to being off the clock.
“The rare opportunity I do get to go on a date, I hardly ever come downtown,” Lookofsky said. “I’ll be on the date and somebody will come to the [restaurant] table and speak for 30 minutes.”
Regardless of working day and night to appropriate millions of dollars or just to make sure all the streetlights are working, Lookofsky’s personal life, when she gets to enjoy it, looks a lot like the girl’s next door or the guy’s across the street.
“I enjoy cooking, hanging out with friends,” Lookofsky said. “I like to go see live music, host dinner parties. I’m a runner. I hang out with my dog, Rufus – he’s a basset hound, pit bull mix. He’s really cute.”