By Emily Glory Peters
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” rings (partially) true for the folks behind Old Pasadena Management District (OPMD), the nonprofit you probably never heard of. Contracting with the City of Pasadena, the organization masterminds many of the creative events, initiatives and improvements that keep Old Pasadena buzzing. Yet some achievements are largely a quiet affair.
“Old Pasadena Management District does a lot of really great things—and if we do our job right, some you’ll never notice,” says Steve Mulheim, president and CEO of OPMD.
“Like the level of cleanliness for the district. Not too long ago, Skechers was filming a commercial in Old Town Pasadena and told us, ‘We had to do it here because the only thing in our commercial is shoes and sidewalks, and you’ve got the cleanest sidewalks around!’ If you come to shop and dine, you may not notice that—but it’s the kind of thing that invisibly contributes to your enjoyment.”
Elevating visitor enjoyment—and the economic health of Old Pasadena—is what OPMD is all about. Alongside a cross-section of Old Pasadena stakeholders, Mulheim has been at the helm of the organization for nearly 14 years, helping position Old Pasadena as one of the country’s premiere downtown destinations. The group’s small-but-mighty staff manages everything from parking structures to street cleaning to summer movie screenings, as well as more complex district-wide events like BoldPas.
“Our director of marketing and events, Janet, and her assistant director conceived the idea and partnered with numerous businesses, organizations and schools to create a one-day interactive, immersive art experience around Old Pasadena,” says Mulheim, noting that all OPMD’s events are free and open to the public. Moreover, these kinds of events help shuffle bodies off Colorado Boulevard and into some of the district’s charming hidden spots.
“We have so many extraordinary alley walkways that are rarely used as connectivity throughout the district,” he noted. “Events like BoldPas not only build the community, but benefit our businesses to get new folks in the door.”
Boosting the visibility of these smaller businesses is of particular interest this year as the OPMD looks to improve not just Old Pasadena’s main drag, but all 22 blocks.
“Up to 75 percent of Old Pasadena’s businesses are independent, and they in turn are supporting a lot of independent artisans in the area,” says Mulheim. “What we do has a tremendous impact on improving not just the business growth, but the lives of Pasadena and Pasadena-adjacent residents.”
As a nonprofit, Old Pasadena Management District’s projects are largely funded by a special property tax assessment. With only five people on staff, support from ad hoc committees and an “ambassador guide team” are critical to OPMD’s ability to maintain the district’s vitality.
“One of the things we’re working hard on is how to create a sense of community between our residential and business population, so we really encourage our folks to meet and get to know each other,” says Mulheim. “Come to a committee meeting! Get our newsletter to learn about events and new store openings! And if all you know about Old Pasadena is Colorado Boulevard, come visit and walk around. There are a lot of surprises to discover.”
To learn more about the Old Pasadena Management District, visit oldpasadena.org/old-pasadena-management-district or contact Steve Mulheim at email@example.com. To stay on top of the district’s events this summer, following Old Pasadena on Facebook and Instagram @oldpasadena.