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.
“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