The announcement came at the beginning of the Marketplace’s busiest season and just a few weeks before Redmond’s last day, December 1. Assuming the Burlington City Council confirms her on Monday, Alnasrawi will be the Marketplace’s fourth director in its 40-year history. Her first day would be November 19.
“I know the Church Street Marketplace and the committee that helped with the selection joins me in saying that Kara is an ideal candidate for this position,” Weinberger said from a podium erected on Church Street. “We couldn't be more excited about her stepping into this role.”
Created in 1981, the Marketplace is a city department that oversees the Marketplace District, which draws more than 3 million visitors each year. The office distributes licenses and permits, such as for food carts and other Church Street vendors, and is in charge of marketing and capital projects.
A Burlington area native, Alnasrawi studied political science at the University of Vermont and political theory at the New School for Social Research in New York City. She previously worked in banking in Germany and New York before opening Liebling, a women’s boutique on College Street, in 2012. Alnasrawi said she plans to sell the store and is in the middle of negotiations with a potential buyer.
Alnasrawi also serves on various boards, including for the Burlington Business Association, Central Peddling District Action Committee and the Downtown Improvement District Advisory Committee, according to her résumé. The latter group lobbied for a ballot item this past Town Meeting Day that would have replaced the Church Street Marketplace Commission — a group of nine city council appointees that set policies for the shopping district — with a nonprofit organization. The measure failed at the polls.
Alnasrawi's tenure is set to begin at a time when traditional retail is increasingly challenged by online retailers such as Amazon. But Weinberger said downtown shops have performed well, and the city has seen “near-record high” sales tax revenue.
“Make no mistake,” Weinberger said, “downtown Burlington is strong today.”
Alnasrawi agreed, saying her experience as a retailer has shown that customers enjoy interacting with local shop owners.
“Brick and mortar needs support, but in a community like this, I feel that the shop-local vibe … is strong,” she said. “I think this position, the executive director position, is to foster that.”