Welcome Back Weeks Catalyzed Tens of Thousands of Dollars in Spending at Downtown Small Businesses
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today announced the outcomes of Welcome Back Weeks – a two-week effort from the City and downtown partners to bring workers, small businesses, and visitors back to downtown Seattle. As part of Welcome Back Weeks, the City invested more than $300,000 dollars directly into small businesses, artists, and cultural organizations who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Those investments support nearly 500 small businesses, and 80 percent of those are owned by women or people of color. The City is also employing 200 artists and cultural workers, many of whom haven’t been able to perform in person for 16 months, and 90 percent of the City-hired creative workers are women or people of color.
Across the City’s large-scale events and partner promotions, the City estimates that at least 15,000 visited downtown Seattle to participate in Welcome Back Weeks. In addition, the City’s small business partnerships resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in new spending at downtown small businesses.
“Downton Seattle is our city’s economic engine and heartbeat, and it was devasted during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn,” said Mayor Durkan. “As we turn our attention to recovery, the City will remain focused on spurring economic activity, supporting workers, and revitalizing our arts and cultural scene. Our Welcome Back Weeks brought tens of thousands of residents and visitors back to our downtown neighborhoods, but this was just the first step in a long and dedicated effort to help our downtown core recover. I’m grateful to our partners across downtown for supporting an equitable and ambitious COVID-19 recovery.”
“It was great to see so many neighbors from all over the city come to celebrate the reopening of Downtown and our urban core. This well-attended community building activity demonstrated how placemaking can connect our community and help our local businesses. The City was able to employ many of our local artists, musicians, and other creatives during these Welcome Back Weeks, after so many haven’t had an opportunity to share their talents that help make Seattle such a great place to live. These events marked the first of many steps in our recovery, and foreshadow the positive impact we expect when all businesses return to work Downtown,” said Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia).
The City of Seattle estimates that 5,700 people participated in its large-scale Welcome Back Weeks events, including 2,000 people at the Hing Hay Park event in the Chinatown-International District, 700 people at the Occidental Square event in Pioneer Square, and 3,000 people at the Westlake Park event in Westlake. In addition, the City vaccinated 52 new people across its Welcome Back Weeks clinics, which were a partnership with the Day In • Day Out music festival taking place at Seattle Center this Labor Day weekend.
The Downtown Seattle Association partnered with the City on Welcome Back Weeks, and their efforts resulted in:
- Welcome Back Booths experienced over 10,000 engagements with people
- Downtown Summer Sounds is gaining popularity and attendees: more than 100 people at most concerts
- Recent Beers & Bites event in Occidental Square attracted approximately 1,500 visitors over a three-day period
“People are coming back to downtown, and it’s great to see the activity picking up in the heart of the city,” said Downtown Seattle Association President & CEO Jon Scholes. “We’re seeing the number of daily visitors, total downtown foot traffic and hotel occupancy all trending upward. Downtown is turning a corner and we are keeping up the momentum by organizing Welcome Back Weeks in September to create unique events, activities and experiences you can only get downtown. We invite people to check out www.LoveSeaTown.com to see all that’s happening and come on down to take part.”
As part of Welcome Back Weeks, the City partnered with the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area, the Alliance for Pioneer Square, and Intentionalist to support nearly 500 small businesses downtown, 80 percent of which are owned by women of people of color. The outcomes of those partnerships are as follows:
- The Alliance for Pioneer Square distributed 134 Passports to Pioneer Square, which supports local small businesses in the neighborhood;
- 423 receipts from 175 different downtown small businesses were uploaded to Intentionalist’s Receipt and Receive program, which amounts to $16,142 in spending at downtown small businesses; and
- Intentionalist’s Gift Like it Matters program catalyzed more than $10,000 in additional gift certificate revenues for downtown small businesses.
“It was wonderful to see the community come out to support downtown small businesses throughout Welcome Back Weeks,” said Intentionalist CEO, Laura Clise. “Small business owners including Wendy Huynh of Bubble Tea Fresh Fruit in Little Saigon and Vaness Vu of Doner Box in Belltown shared with us that the additional foot traffic and support from the community means a lot as they continue to navigate the ongoing challenges of pandemic recovery. Our community showed up, and it will be important to continue to Spend Like It Matters in the weeks and months to come.”
In an effort to support local artists and small businesses, the City’s Welcome Back Weeks were the launch of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture’s (ARTS) Created Commons initiative, a new City effort to create a vital lifeline to fund artists and creatives by transforming public spaces into venues for spectacular temporary arts and cultural extravaganzas. Through this effort, the City employed approximately 200 artists and cultural workers as part of the events, many of whom haven’t been able to perform in person for 16 months, and 90 percent of the City-hired creative workers are women, LGBTQ+ and/or people of color.
“The Created Commons event was amazing! Hing Hay Park was full of people excited to be back together enjoying shows and we were one of them,” shared Bleachbear, who performed at the Welcome Back to the Chinatown-International District event. “It felt wonderful to be up on the stage again. In fact, after such a long hiatus from playing live shows during the pandemic, we were probably more pumped to be playing a show than any time we could remember! While it felt new in ways, it was also comfortable and familiar, and it just felt awesome to see familiar faces from past shows singing along with us. Pulling together events in City parks with local performers was a brilliant way to get the community connected again, and we were so glad to be a part of it.”
“I personally didn’t realize how much the Welcome Back Week shows would impact me as an artist until I was on stage at Hing Hay Park looking out into the crowd as I started my first song, realizing I would be singing songs for my family and my community. [It was my] first time onstage since the pandemic shut everything down in 2020,” shared Daniel Pak, artist and Executive Director of Totem Star, who performed at the Welcome Back to the Chinatown-International District event. “Special thanks to Jenny Ku at ARTS for championing youth voice and culture, as she advocated strongly to get youth artists on the stages at Hing Hay, Occidental, and Westlake. Witnessing Totem Star artists bring so much love and joy to the community shows us how far we’ve come and also where we need to go to ensure that young people have a platform to share their stories and perspectives as the future cultural leaders of Seattle.”
Welcome Back Weeks are a key element of the City’s Road to Downtown Recovery plan, which seeks to bring workers, small businesses, and visitors back downtown. You can find more information on the City’s downtown recovery efforts at www.seattle.gov/covidrecovery.