Take a walk through Capitol Hill and it would be obvious even to the greenest of transplants that Broadway is no longer the neighborhood’s defining business corridor. It is, however, the only one to have a Business Improvement Area — a member-contributed organization that funds everything from trash and graffiti clean up, to marketing and advocacy campaigns.
CHS reported in February about early efforts by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to expand the Broadway BIA to Pike/Pine and possibly beyond. The chamber is the “administrative agent” for the Broadway BIA.
Earlier this year the chamber applied for an up-to-$200,000 “Only in Seattle” grant to facilitate a conversation among Capitol Hill business and property owners about collaborating on security, the area’s day/night business mix, height zoning, and of course, parking and trash.
Director Michael Wells said expanding the BIA would likely be a big part of that conversation. “What’s the scope? How big do we make this thing?” Wells said.
Wells said he expects the grant decision within a couple weeks and the money will also help fund other chamber promotional efforts and programs.. In the meantime, the chamber is planning to move forward with BIA expansion discussions to have a plan ready for early 2015.
One of the biggest decisions will be where to draw the new BIA lines.
Do Pike/Pine, 12th, and 15th gerrymander their way into a contiguous expansion of the current BIA, or do they form their own BIA fiefdoms? Another issue current and future BIA members will have to sort out is how to fund their activities. Currently, Broadway BIA members pay a small percentage of their quarterly income into a BIA fund. Another model is to have members pay based on their square footage. Currently on the Hill, membership fees and an assessment based on gross income — $2 for every $1,000 generated — provide the bulk of the program’s budget.
Any major changes to the Broadway BIA, including expanding its budget or boundaries, would require approval by members who add up to 60% of gross retail sales of the area.
The city’s Office of Economic Development BIA consultant Brian Scott tells CHS that the Broadway BIA, formed in 1986, has many of the characteristics of older structures from that time including the funding model that depends on self-reported sales tax. A model that calculates contribution by square footage would be more transparent.
“The great thing about it is the people that provide the money get to decide what’s getting done,” Scott said. “If you want to pay more to get more cleaning on your corner you can do that. It’s real local control grass roots organizing.”
But before any major BIA expansion, the chamber is setting its sights on a much smaller move to extend the Broadway BIA one block to cover Pike and another half-block to cover the Odd Fellow’s building on 10th. The City Council will decide on the preliminary expansion early in 2014.
UPDATE 5/14/14: The City Council’s finance and culture committee is bringing forward a plan for the approximately 10% expansion of the BIA. According to a City Hall staff memo, a public hearing on the expansion will take place in early June before final adoption of the plan.