A campaign to create a $1.6 million program to address clean streets, public safety, and business growth across Capitol Hill’s commercial districts will begin a new phase this week with the first in a series of planned open house sessions to gather support for an expanded Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area and a new, larger charter for the organization behind the campaign, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.
In February, when chamber director Sierra Hansen officially announced the campaign to form a new Business Improvement Area, she said the organization had received commitments from about half of the 60% of 650 commercial property owners needed to move the proposal forward to the City Council for approval.
As the petitions have been circulating, Hansen said much of the past month has been spent following up with those committed owners, gathering official signatures and scheduling meetings with other stakeholders.
“Our list of supporters is strong,” she said, noting it includes Capitol Hill real estate developer Hunters Capital, faith-based organizations, Capitol Hill Housing, and residents.
Hansen declined to say what gains in the percentage of needed signatures the chamber has been able to secure in the early days of the campaign.
Not everyone is buying into it. Morris Groberman, who along with an investment partnership owns Harvard Market, says the current, smaller BIA focused only on Broadway already doesn’t do enough to clean up the neighborhood and keep crimes down — and he says his taxes are high enough already.
“I can only pass so much on to the residents before it hits my bottom line,” he said.
Hansen said those involved in outreach are taking a lot of questions about the value of the BIA that would include Broadway, 12th Ave, 15th Ave E, 19th Ave E, Melrose, Olive/Denny, and Pike/Pine. The expanded Capitol Hill BIA would be similar in structure to ones in Pioneer Square, SODO, University District, Ballard, West Seattle, and downtown, the chamber says.
Groberman has also already invested in security at his properties, but items still get stolen and the properties get vandalized, he says. He says the homeless population is responsible for many of the break-ins and theft, as well as defecating and urinating on his properties. Those among them who are drug users need to go and those who are mentally ill need to be cared for, he told CHS.
“If we didn’t have the homeless population, we wouldn’t need the BIA,” he said.
Outreach and education about the proposed BIA that is estimated to bring in $1.6 million to help fill empty stores, attract visitors, expand street cleaning, improve public safety, advocate for affordable housing, and improve service from city hall, continues with the first of three planned open houses on the subject on Monday.
The open house will run from 6 PM to 8 PM at The Summit, 420 E Pike. The other open houses will be on April 29 and May 23.
Prior to the circulation of the formal petitions, the chamber had been speaking with stakeholders about the proposed BIA for the past few months.
Some property owners who were against the expanded BIA have since changed their minds, Hansen told CHS.
“We spent quite a bit of time doing outreach in the community to ensure the plan being proposed was aligned with the needs in the community,” Hansen said.
Because the proposed BIA is essentially made up of seven different smaller neighborhoods on Capitol Hill, those needs differ from each area, and the budget can be split to address those needs in each.
Those needs are also expected to change over the years, and the governing board overseeing the BIA will be able to make adjustments to meet different needs.
“The BIA proposal is very comprehensive and with an ambitious mixture of services needed on Capitol Hill. It kind of knits us all together in a way we haven’t been knit together before,” Hansen said.
Hansen’s goal for the new BIA’s formation is mid-2017. The expanded organization would bring in an estimated $1.6 million based on property assessments. Roughly 70% of those funds will go toward street cleaning, hot-spot patrols and district-wide social worker outreach. Marketing, of course, will also be a focus.
Hansen said the chamber is also in the process of finding people who are interested in being part of a future rate payer advisory board or the Capitol Hill Alliance that would be formed and powered by the new BIA. An application form is expected to be posted this week. You can learn more about applying and more about the BIA proposal at capitolhill2020.org.