Mobile Small Business Consulting Heading to Seattle Neighborhoods

The Office of Economic Development (OED) will host mobile small business consulting sessions throughout Seattle. We will bring our technical assistance partners to different neighborhoods for 1-on-1 business consulting.

The pilot program launched May 24th in the Central Area with 10 small businesses on 23rd Avenue as an effort to continue our collaboration with businesses negatively impacted by construction. Events were held on May, 24  May 25 at Black Dot @ Union. The businesses that signed up received consulting by Ventures in collaboration with the Central Area Collaborative and Seattle University. Yonas Seifu and Mikel Davila from OED worked with the businesses ahead of their mobile small business consulting appointments to ensure they were able to get the most out of their time with the experts. Experts are able to assist with a number of issues, depending on the individual needs of the small business. They can offer marketing recommendations, merchandising suggestions, help with navigating government and permitting and help connect businesses to low interest financing, and more

Staff is working with our partners in various neighborhoods to identify businesses that would benefit from these services.

OED will host small business consulting in the following neighborhoods:

June: South Park

July: Lake City; Hillman City

August: Little Saigon; West Seattle

September: U District; N Seattle Chamber

October: New Holly

November: Ballard; Capitol Hill

December: Beacon Hill

Mayor Ed Murray launches advisory committee to support commercial affordability

Mayor Ed Murray today announced today the launch of a Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee that will make recommendations on addressing the rising cost of commercial space for small businesses, develop opportunities to activate public spaces for entrepreneurs, and identify strategies to expand economic development throughout Seattle.

“Small businesses are essential to the economy our city,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Many of Seattle’s greatest companies got their start in small, affordable storefronts, garages, food trucks, or as simple coffee shops. We will work with the small business community to encourage affordable spaces for existing businesses and develop new opportunities for those ready to launch their dream.”

During the current period of economic growth, new commercial space in Seattle often is dedicated for larger tenants, real estate values have increased commercial rents, and existing commercial properties have been redeveloped, displacing smaller businesses. The committee will review existing City policies and recommend steps to encourage development and preservation of commercial spaces. Recommendations will be made to the Mayor by September of this year.Percent Increase in Rent

“We have a business climate that is the envy of cities around the world,” said Brian Surratt, Director of the Office of Economic Development. “We cannot take today’s economic success for granted. By ensuring that the entrepreneurs of tomorrow have affordable options today to start businesses, we can be a city of opportunities and a world-class startup hub for all.”

The group will consider a broad range of solutions to commercial affordability, including incentivizing the construction of smaller commercial spaces, further activation of public spaces to the benefit of food trucks and other small businesses, and the inclusion of affordable commercial storefronts in more affordable housing projects.

About 80 percent of Seattle businesses are small businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Paychex IHS Small Business Jobs Index cites Seattle as the number one U.S. metro area for small business job growth.

“As a member of the East African community, many of my friends and neighbors have started small businesses to support their families,” said Solomon Dubie, owner of Café Avole in Southeast Seattle. “I hope that my work on the Commercial Affordability Advisory Committee will help my community continue to find ways to start businesses and remain in business in Seattle as the city grows.”

The 15 member committee includes business owners, commercial real estate stakeholders, and business development advocates. Members include:

  • Liz Dunn, Dunn & Hobbes
  • Maiko Winkler-Chin, Seattle Chinatown International District PDA
  • Sam Farrazaino, Equinox Development Unlimited
  • John Chelico, JSH Properties
  • Don Blakeney, Downtown Seattle Association
  • Frank Gross, Thunder Road Guitars
  • Solomon Dubie, Café Avole
  • Susanna Tran, West Coast Commercial Realty
  • Dennis Comer, Brown Sugar Baking
  • Mariela Fletcher, MANILA MANILA Asian Retail Store and Food to Go
  • Mark Morel, Morel Industries
  • Tam Nguyen, Tamarind Tree and Long Provincial
  • Karen True, Alliance for Pioneer Square
  • Shanti Breznau, independent retail recruitment consultant
  • Megan Jasper, Sup Pop Records

Positive findings for Pike Street Pedestrian Pilot

The Office of Economic Development (OED) and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) issued its assessment of the August 2015 Pike Pedestrian Street pilot project, a series of temporary closures of Pike Street on Capitol Hill for pedestrian activity.

“Capitol Hill is an iconic Seattle neighborhood that attracts both daytime and nighttime visitors,” Brian Surratt Director of Economic Development said. “Last year we experimented with enhancing the experience for pedestrians by temporarily opening streets to pedestrians only. We learned a lot and will continue to work with the neighborhood to share what we learned and to identify next steps.”

OED, SDOT, Seattle Police Department, and Capitol Hill EcoDistrict collaborated on the project.  The pedestrian pilot relieved pressure at sidewalk bottlenecks and allowed for cultural and performance activities in the street. Crowds gathered to watch and participate in yoga lessons, an impromptu brass band, and a six-act drag show.

“My guy and I were having dinner at Pettirosso and decided to check out Retrofit’s new couches. Between the time of going into the store and coming out there was a full-fledged yoga class filling Pike Street and beautiful drag queens everywhere getting ready for their show. Our night blossomed into an unexpected surprise with such great energy,” said Tracy Rector, executive director of Longhouse Media.

Staff and community volunteers collected data and surveys before and during pilot test nights and followed up the pilot with a community survey and stakeholder interviews.

“I felt safer and more connected to the community. I was able to reach my destination quicker and found myself visiting other businesses that I may not have otherwise gone into,” said a survey respondent.

One of the most common responses from the survey was that the street felt safer for pedestrians, and there was less congestion on the sidewalk.

More than 41% of people surveyed walked to the neighborhood. 22% used ride-share services and 15% used public transit. 70% of people who walked or used transit options had the option of driving a personal vehicle but chose not to. Only 14% of respondents drove alone in their vehicles.

66% of all survey respondents said they’d like to see a pedestrian-only Pike Street on weekend nights in the future. That percentage of support rises to 70% for neighborhood residents.

“During the pilot nights, the positive energy from the streets felt like it translated inside the bars much more than normal nights. The people seemed less agitated, were more manageable, and the vibe felt safer,” said Kaileigh Wilson, bar manager of the Unicorn and Narwhal.

City departments will convene neighborhood stakeholders in May to discuss the results of the study and explore ways that pedestrian streets in the Pike-Pine neighborhood can creatively meet resident, business, and visitor needs.

The report is available here: http://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2016/04/13/pike-street-pedestrian-pilot-findings/

Mayor celebrates with Only in Seattle Award Winners

Last week, Mayor Ed Murray announced the 2016 Only In Seattle initiative grant award winners, totaling $1.6 million dollars in 19 neighborhoods; this will bring together City departments and local business stakeholders to create strategies and improvements that will strengthen neighborhood business districts. You can view how the grant money will be invested here.

To celebrate the initiative, Mayor Ed Murray and the Only In Seattle team hosted a party on March 31st, it included fantastic food by Taste of Caribbean and featured a live performance by The Seattle Woman’s Steel Pan Project.

Brian Surratt speaking at Only In Seattle Initive Celebration 2016 Joan Broughton Dennis Comer Lillian Comer at the Only In Seattle initiative celebration 2016
You can see more pictures of the event by visiting the Office of Economic Development Facebook page.

Only In Seattle’s initiative supports investments in neighborhood business districts. Office of Economic Development Director Brian Surratt said, “Neighborhood business districts are the economic engines of our city. The uniqueness of each neighborhood is one of the reasons people love to live here,” Brian believes that, “The Only in Seattle initiative helps foster neighborhood businesses by supporting community and community leadership.”

Some of the strategies Only In Seattle’s initiative focuses on are:
• Business and retail development (supporting businesses, attracting new businesses)
• Marketing and promotion (events, social media, district advertising)
• Clean and safe (graffiti removal, garbage pick-up, lighting)
• Streetscape and appearance (catalytic development projects, façade, public art)
• Business organization development to sustain the effort, including the creation of a Business Improvement Area (BIA) or exploration to form one.

To learn more about what Only In Seattle does or to contact them, you can check out their webpage.

Mayor Ed Murray announces $1.6 million for neighborhood business districts

This evening Mayor Ed Murray will join business leaders and owners in Seattle’s Central Area to announce $1.6 million in neighborhood investments through the Only in Seattle initiative. This year’s grants will make investments in 19 neighborhoods, bringing City departments and local business stakeholders together to develop strategies and improvements that strengthen neighborhood business districts.

“Thriving, walkable business districts are vital to the success of Seattle’s neighborhoods,” said Mayor Murray. “We work with local leaders and business owners on Only in Seattle grants to develop a shared vision that attracts businesses and jobs to neighborhoods across Seattle.”

“Neighborhood business districts are the economic engines of our city. The uniqueness of each neighborhood is one of the reasons people love to live here,” said Brian Surratt, Director of the Office of Economic Development. “The Only in Seattle initiative helps foster neighborhood businesses by supporting community and community leadership.”

About 80 percent of Seattle businesses are small businesses, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Paychex IHS Small Business Jobs Index cites Seattle as the number one U.S. metro area for small business job growth.

The Office of Economic Development’s Only in Seattle initiative supports investments in neighborhood business districts, and focuses on the following strategies to create strong business districts:

  • Business and retail development (supporting businesses, attracting new businesses)
  • Marketing and promotion (events, social media, district advertising)
  • Clean and safe (graffiti removal, garbage pick-up, lighting)
  • Streetscape and appearance (catalytic development projects, façade, public art)
  • Business organization development to sustain the effort, including the creation of a Business Improvement Area (BIA) or exploration to form one.

The local business communities in 14 neighborhoods are developing or are launching comprehensive, multi-year strategies, in which the City is investing more than $1 million in 2016:

 

  • Ballard                         $   85,000
  • Beacon Hill                 $   47,800
  • Capitol Hill                 $  137,500
  • Central Area               $  102,000
  • Chinatown-ID            $  150,880
  • First Hill                      $   40,000
  • Georgetown                $   20,000
  • Hillman City               $   24,700
  • Lake City                     $   75,000
  • Magnolia                     $   15,000
  • Mt. Baker                    $   28,000
  • Othello                        $   152,275
  • Rainier Beach            $    75,000
  • South Park                 $    60,000

 

The City will make additional investments in Green Lake, Pioneer Square, South Lake Union, the University District,  and Westlake/Downtown through a blend of façade and awning projects, BIA funding, partnerships with City departments, and capital improvement projects.

 

Through a partnership with the Seattle Investment Fund, a total of $50,000 in façade improvements will be granted to Chinatown-ID for new signs and awnings on three buildings, and to South Park for new signs and security cameras for eight buildings. Neighborhood business district organizations provided a significant match for these project costs.

 

“Five businesses in Rainier Beach benefited from the façade improvement investments in 2015,” said Patrice Thomas, Coordinator of the Rainier Beach Action Coalition. “The improvements were designed using Crime Prevention through Environmental Design principles to make the stores safer for customers and business owners and operators.”

 

Additionally, Only in Seattle is granting $75,000 to seven neighborhoods to explore or create a BIA. The seven neighborhoods are: Chinatown/ID, Capitol Hill, Ballard, First Hill, Magnolia, Georgetown and South Lake Union. Existing BIAs have generated over $49 million over the last three years to fund clean and safe, marketing and promotion, and business retail and development programs across Seattle.

 

This year, Only in Seattle also granted $500,000 to neighborhoods with paid on-street parking or significant construction impacts for capital improvement projects that enhance the commercial district experience:

 

Pioneer Passage Alley $200,000: The Seattle Department of Transportation will rebuild Pioneer Passage Alley in Pioneer Square to make it walkable and functional for sidewalk cafes and events.

Lighting Study of Chinatown\International District $100,000: A lighting study will determine improvements to increase safety and visibility in the business district.

First Hill Active and Attractive Public Spaces $80,000: First Hill Improvement Association will create walking loops in the district, hold fun events in University Street Park and paint the columns under I-5 to create an attractive gateway to the neighborhood.

Welcome to South Park Signs $30,000: South Park Retail Merchants Association will conduct a design process to create “Welcome to South Park” signs at its gateways.

Pike/Pine Safety and Parking Improvements $27,500:  The Capitol Hill Housing will work with local businesses to remove dumpsters, install lighting and develop strategies to share local parking between businesses and residents.

Love Green Lake Banners and Parking Maps $20,000:  The Green Lake Chamber will beautify the business district with banners and develop maps to highlight available parking.

Westlake Park Lighting Plan $20,000:  A lighting study will define solutions to make the park accessible and inviting during evening hours.

Wayfinding Signs and Signal Box Art in Beacon Hill $10,000: Wayfinding signs will be installed at the Beacon Hill light rail station and art placed on signal boxes.

 

The Office of Arts & Culture and the Department of Neighborhoods have been integral partners in the Only in Seattle initiative by bolstering the investments and service support. This year, three neighborhoods will receive support from the Office of Arts & Culture to organize festive gatherings of business district leaders, artists, arts organizations and/or cultural organizations to meet and explore possibilities for collaboration. The districts are Lake City, First Hill and Hillman City.

Through the partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods, neighborhood business districts are receiving support from bi-lingual, bi-cultural outreach specialists to offer technical assistance and problem solving for businesses of color in their districts. Six neighborhoods will receive a combined $30,000 in support and will participate in a training cohort throughout the year to develop tools and identify resources to build equity in their work plan.  The neighborhoods are: Lake City, Hillman City, Capitol Hill, the University District, South Park and Little Saigon.

“We’re excited to engage with business owners of color to help shape the direction of our work and make it more inclusive and representative of the entire business community,” said Elizabeth McCoury, President and CEO of The U District Partnership.

 

Local Global Eats: Plate of Nations is March 25-April 10

This Friday the MLK Business Association kicks off Plate of Nations, its signature dine-around event, now in its sixth year.

 

From March 25 through April 10, you’re invited to explore international cuisine at 14 restaurants in Rainier Valley, one of the most culturally diverse communities in the country. Participating restaurants along Martin Luther King Jr. Way will offer $15 and $25 menus designed to be shared – come hungry and bring your family and friends.

 

Up for a Challenge?

Visit all 14 restaurants (or at least eight of them), collecting Plate of Nations passport stamps as you go, and enter to win these great prizes:

  • Grand Prize (12+ stamps): Private cooking class for four with Farah and Amina Ismail and family, owners of Bananas Grill. Learn and taste your way throughMediterranean and Northeast African Halal specialties.
  • First Prize (10+ stamps, 2 winners): Kindle Fire HD
  • Second Prize (8+ stamps, 5 winners): Hello Othello tote bags + bonus swag

Additional prizes, including gift cards from participating restaurants, will be announced throughout the event on the Plate of Nations Facebook page. Learn more about the Plate of Nations Passport and contests here.

Bananas Grill owner Farah Ismail

Grand Prize: private cooking class for four with Bananas Grill owner Farah Ismail and family

Where to Go

Participating restaurants are within walking distance of the Mount Baker, Columbia City, and Othello light rail stations.

Here’s where to go and an idea of what you might eat:

 

About Plate of Nations

Plate of Nations was launched in 2011 by the MLK Business Association to create a festive showcase of the diverse menus and cultural traditions of Rainier Valley’s many independently owned eateries.

Last year, Plate of Nations drew diners from 37 Seattle neighborhoods, 25 Washington cities, and 5 states, selling thousands of specials and bringing tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue into Rainier Valley.

Plate of Nations 2016 is sponsored by the MLK Business Association, City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, Vulcan, Rainier Valley Community Development Fund, HomeSight, The Stranger, Northwest Polite Society, and Penniless Projects.

 

Plate of Nations 2016

Greenwood Neighborhood Business Assistance

 

Greenwood-01

On March 9, Office of Economic Development (OED) Director Brian Surratt, toured the Greenwood neighborhood with Mayor Ed Murray to assess the damage caused by an overnight gas explosion.

Mayor Ed Murray and Brian Surratt tour damage caused by the Greenwood gas explosion

March 9, 2016 – Mayor Ed Murray and Brian Surratt tour damage caused by the Greenwood gas explosion

 

Seattle Fire estimated more than 30 businesses had damage as a result of the explosion.

The Mayor and department heads met with business owners to update them on the status of their businesses and how the City was responding.

Several steps were taken immediately. As of Wednesday afternoon, Seattle Fire was going through the area with building inspectors to assess the safety of the buildings near the explosion. The mayor increased police presence in the neighborhood to help protect assets that were left vulnerable after windows were shattered. The Office of Economic Development and the Department of Neighborhoods began community outreach. Additional services by multiple departments were also underway.

 

 

Currently, our office is providing the following assistance:

  • We’re working with businesses to complete the Washington State Economic Injury Worksheet. Once five businesses have completed the paperwork, it will help open up SBA Disaster Loan funds, which are low-interest loans
  • Staff will be working with businesses one-on-one to help identify and troubleshoot their individual needs. This could include help with permitting, help with relocation if that’s appropriate, and help with any other needs we have not anticipated.
  • We’re promoting the work of the PNA Business Advisory Group, who is organizing fundraisers, volunteers and more
  • We stood up a website that will be regularly updated with information and resources as they become available
  • We’re advising businesses and residents to share details of damage with PSE’s claim line: 1-888-225-5773

Businesses are encouraged to reach out to our office so we can provide support and connect them with services. Contact information and more are available here. 

My Behind The Scenes Experience Of The Presidents State Of The Union Address

Going to Washington D.C. for President Obama’s Final State of the Union Address was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. With the trip being over a month ago now, it is still surreal to me that I was there and witnessed everything I did. Tuesday, January 5th when I came into work I was not prepared for the news I was about to receive. I received an email that contained a message saying that Mayor Ed Murray suggested me as the individual who will have the honor of traveling with Chief O’Toole to D.C. When I first read the email, it took me a few minutes to comprehend what was going on. Once I finally understood what was going on, I was overwhelmed with excitement. Two days later I got to meet SPD’s Chief O’Toole, who I would be travelling with. When I first met her she was extremely friendly and outgoing, you could tell she was a very likeable person. She made a few funny jokes, and we discussed the trip and travel arrangements.
When Chief O’Toole and I arrived at the airport Monday morning, we were met by one of her staff members who told us news teams were waiting for us. After we had checked our bags we went to the news teams and there were four cameras waiting to interview us. They asked Chief O’Toole a series of questions about how she felt about being selected to sit in the First Lady’s box, her view on gun control, and a few other questions, once she was finished I was asked one question about my feelings on travelling with the Chief and getting to experience this opportunity. I was nervous answering because it was only my second time ever being interviewed in front of a camera and I had never done it in front of four cameras and for a topic that was such a big deal.
Tuesday was the day we all were waiting for. We started off the day by going to the Department of Justice for a meeting with the Attorney General Loretta E. Lunch. When we first went to the Department of Justice I noticed right away how compelling the inside of the building was and the countless memorabilia that was inside the building. One of the first hallways we saw had various nations’ flags on both sides of the hallway; this was one of my favorite areas in the Department of Justice. Luckily I got to sit in on an informal meeting between the Attorney General and the Chief. It was a unique experience to see two people of such power interact and discuss important issues as well as joke with each other and get to know one another.
After a short break in our day myself, Aaron Frausto, Meghan O’Toole, and Chief O’Toole took off to get a tour of the White House. Our tour included a part of the White House not many people can say they’ve seen, The West Wing. The tour of the West Wing was brief and we were not able to take pictures of any of it but, it was very memorable. We were able to see a room called “The Naval Mass” which was Navy themed and had these beautiful pictures of Navy ships; we also got to see a dining room that Vice President Joe Biden eats a lot of his meals at. My favorite part of the West Wing was all of the pictures they had hanging on the wall. They had upwards of 50 different pictures of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama doing various activities such as greeting people, in meetings, speaking to the public, etc. Once the tour of the West Wing came to an end we got the tour of the White House starting from the East Wing. We were able to see the library, the First Lady room, the Kennedy Garden, the East room, along with many others.
Once the tour came to an end it lead to a reception in one of the main hallways of the White House. During the reception we got to network with notable people, meet others who would be in the First Lady’s box, and their plus ones. A few hours into the reception, we were instructed to put our phones away and follow the workers, after about 15 minutes of waiting, Wale, who is a popular rapper from D.C. walked in and I met him which was exciting for me as a fan. But then, Michelle Obama walked into the room. Everyone was silent and anxious to meet her; luckily, myself, Chief O’Toole, and Meghan were the first ones in line! It was a brief encounter but such an honor and once in a lifetime moment. In those few seconds that we introduced ourselves you could tell that she was a nice, kind hearted person with a sense of humor. This was definitely one of the best moments of the entire trip.
Once First Lady Obama left the VIP’s all took a van over to the speech, Meghan and I stayed back at the White House and got to watch the speech from the White House family movie theater. While watching it, we were provided with popcorn, food, and drinks. There were about 20-25 people in the theater with us, and the seats were easily the most comfortable theater seats I have sat in, they even reclined! I thought President Obama gave an impressive speech, I appreciated that not only did he talk about important topics such as prison and education reform and how America should be a place without discrimination, but he also reminded us of all the excellent work he has done with examples such as our economy right now, unemployment rates, etc. Once the speech was over we headed back to the hotel and the Chief, Meghan, Aaron, and me hung out together before everyone went to bed after the long day.
Overall, the trip was one of the best, most eventful trips I have ever been on. Not only did I get to experience the White House, I met important, successful people and traveled with one. I made critical connections and got the experience of dealing with numerous types of medias. This trip has opened many doors for my professional career and gave me invaluable experience I could not have gotten anywhere else, this trip has led to a timeless story I have to share with friends and family, this trip is something I will never forget and will forever cherish.

Mayor Ed Murray Welcomes Largest Shipping Vessel in U.S. History to Seattle

The CMA CGM Benjamin Franklin made history Monday morning by becoming the largest ship to ever port in Seattle. The ship is also the largest vessel to ever port in the United States.

Larger than the Columbia Tower and longer than 5 Boeing 747s, the CMA CGM is quite a sight to be seen.

Mayor Ed Murray was on hand to greet the ship, along with Seattle Fire’s Leshi. Several Council members were in attendance as well, including Council President Bruce Harrell, Councilmember Tim Burgess, Councilmember Debora Juarez and Councilmember Rob Johnson. 007

Terminal 18 is one of the few ports in the world large enough to host a ship of this size. The Port of Seattle and the regional maritime industry has been preparing to host so-called “super ships” for some time.

During the ceremony to welcome the vessel to Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray spoke about the importance of the maritime industry to Seattle because of the solid middle-income jobs the industry produces. He reconfirmed the City’s commitment to the industry and called the Benjamin Franklin, “incredible.”

The Northwest Seaport Alliance generates $1.1 billion in direct income, $2.4 Billion in induced income and $554.3 million in indirect income, for a total of $4.1 billion in total income & re-spending in the region.

 

Murray calls for creation of stabilization fund for Central Area businesses during 23rd Ave. construction

Murray calls for creation of stabilization fund for Central Area businesses during 23rd Ave. construction

Mayor Ed Murray with SDOT Director Scott Kubly, OED Director Brian Surratt and Neighborhoods Director Kathy Nyland (left to right)

 

Mayor Ed Murray announced that he will work with the City Council to create a new business stabilization fund to assist local businesses affected by delays and extreme construction impacts from the 23rd Ave. road reconstruction project.

Murray also directed City departments to conduct a new evaluation through a race and social justice lens to determine if the project should continue as currently designed and whether it would lead to significant displacement of local businesses. SDOT will also conduct a review of the construction phasing and schedule to consider other ways to proceed with construction of the project to have less of an impact.

“I’ve gone to 23rd Ave. and inspected the project, and I’ve met with several of the small, family-owned primarily minority-owned businesses in the area. It is obvious that the project is having serious impacts on those businesses. It is obvious that they need help. That is why today I’m proposing the creation of a business stabilization fund to help those businesses survive,” Mayor Ed Murray said. “I’ve heard allegations from some members of the community that the work on 23rd is really an attempt to push out the existing, largely African-American owned businesses to pave the way for the gentrification of the neighborhood. That has never been the intention. This project is supposed to provide better and safer infrastructure so the community can grow and thrive. But given those allegations, the City will make a new assessment of the project to examine carefully its race and social justice impacts, to ensure the project actually benefits the community. If it does not, we will end it.”

Working with the City Council, the Mayor will propose a new 23rd Ave. business stabilization fund focused on assisting locally-owned small businesses that have struggled the most during the project, with an emphasis on low-income business owners and those in danger of displacement.

“I wholeheartedly thank the Mayor for working with the City Council on this issue, and Councilmember Sawant for bringing this issue to the Council’s attention,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee will facilitate a conversation with SDOT and the Office of Economic Development to learn more about mitigation options available for stabilizing the Central Area businesses during the 23rd Ave. construction.”

“Small businesses – especially those owned by people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community – are often left out of the political calculus of City Hall. Through organizing and activism, the 23rd Ave. small businesses have won mitigation,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “I want to thank the Mayor and Councilmembers for working with me on this issue.”

“I appreciate the Mayor finding the resources to respond to the businesses who are struggling right now. As the city grows and changes, it is critical we do so in a way that doesn’t displace our longstanding businesses and residents,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “As chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, I look forward to working with the Mayor to examine our policies going forward to mitigate the impacts to local businesses during major transportation infrastructure projects.”

The potential revenue sources for the stabilization fund are twofold:

 

  • $400,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) dollars that have already been allocated to the City can be made available on a one-time basis without disrupting other City funding priorities; and

 

  • Up to $250,000 in funding that can be made available from the Seattle Investment Fund, which was established to award and oversee federal New Market Tax Credits in support of local development projects. The Fund earns fees through the allocation process, and support to distressed businesses is consistent with the Fund’s purposes

 

In addition to the new stabilization fund, Mayor Murray ordered that all affected businesses on the 23rd Ave. corridor, for the duration of the project, will be eligible for deferred payment of bills and fees, including:

 

  • City utility bills,
  • Annual Business permits,
  • Annual signage permit fees, and
  • City portion of B&O tax.

 

Under the Washington State Constitution (Article VIII, Section 5 and 7), local governments are prohibited from gifting local tax dollars to private entities. The new 23rd Ave. stabilization fund announced will use federal CDBG dollars and New Market Tax Credit fees which are not subject to this prohibition. A past example of when Seattle used CDBG dollars to assist local, low-income and minority-owned businesses was in the Rainier Valley to create the Community Development Fund during the construction of light rail along Martin Luther King Ave. in 2006-2009.

 

The new stabilization fund is being proposed by the Mayor in recognition of the unexpected and significant disruptions from the construction project after it began. In the fall of 2015, a design error by a private vendor resulted in a three-month delay. This delay caused changes to the originally planned project phasing. Instead of a multi-phase project where new city blocks would not undergo lane closures until previous blocks were re-opened, the result is that more of the corridor is currently under construction at one time. This represents significant and new impacts to the neighborhood, such as limited access to more storefronts at once and a greater decline in foot and car traffic than originally anticipated and promised to the community.

 

The proposal of a new stabilization fund also reflects the City’s renewed commitment to equitable development. According to a 2015 Growth and Equity analysis the Central Area is considered an urban village that is particularly at high-risk of displacement factors.

 

Designed in 2013, the 23rd Ave. improvement project was intended to improve safety and mobility for drivers, pedestrians, transit users and bicyclists. It was to include wider sidewalks, improved transit speed and reliability and build new street lights. To take advantage of another capital need, a 100-year-old water main was to be replaced at the same time as the road project so the neighborhood would not have to undergo multiple construction projects. Before construction, 23rd Ave. reported 900 collisions in five years (4 fatalities), had narrow and uneven sidewalks, was rated “very poor” for pavement conditions.