As it works to convince property owners to expand its presence and services across Capitol Hill, the Broadway Business Improvement Area and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce are turning to the organizer credited with rescuing last year’s Pride street festival to manage the day to day effort around clean streets, public safety, and business growth services.
Egan Orion of One Degree Events and PrideFest has been hired as the new administrator of the Broadway BIA, the chamber announced Tuesday.
The move comes as chamber leaders, business owners, and landlords across the Hill are considering a major expansion of the BIA to encompass areas including Broadway, Pike/Pine, Melrose, as well as 15th and 19th Avenues.
At the launch of the campaign in February 2017, the chamber said it already had support from about 30% of the property owners to be impacted by the assessments which could run between $2,000 and $5,000 per year for most of the 850 or so properties involved. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area must vote to approve any agreement to create new borders under the city’s Office of Economic Development program. Then each BIA agreement must be approved by the Seattle City Council. The expanded Capitol Hill BIA would be similar in structure to ones in Pioneer Square, SODO, University District, Ballard, West Seattle and downtown.
Because of the city’s legislative and budget cycles, it is already getting down to the wire. If the Capitol Hill expansion effort is going to move forward this year, the 60% package of property owners needs to be wrapped up by mid-summer.
Jack Sorensen, who is organizing the effort to sign owners up for the expanded BIA, tells CHS that the process faces a critical push in the next four months. “It’s definitely go time for it to happen this year,” Sorensen said.
Currently, the chamber administrates the Broadway Business Improvement Area as it manages trash pick-up and graffiti removal around the retail core. Orion’s role will be to manage the current BIA as area businesses and landowners look at the current program and decide if the costs make sense to expand the program to their areas of the Hill.
Orion’s selection follows the exit of chamber executive director Sierra Hansen who stepped down from her leadership role after two years on the job. It also comes in the wake of Orion’s successful application for PrideFest to once again produce the Broadway Pride weekend street festival after the event’s founder lost the city permit for the event in 2017 and faced issues with a lack of support from the Broadway business community.
“This event is the single largest annual event on Capitol Hill with more than 40,000 attendees who come to celebrate the Seattle’s LGBTQI community and largest historic gay neighborhood,” the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce’s announcement of Orion’s new role with the BBIA reads. “In addition to the sponsorship, the BBIA board approved additional funding for booth space to ensure that the brick and mortar businesses within and adjacent to the festival area benefit from the enhanced visibility and potential customers.”
Jeff Pelletier of 15th Ave’s Board and Vellum and director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce board said the BBIA has also approved “new funding for homelessness outreach services.”
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Pelletier said the chamber does not plan to hire a new executive director to replace Hansen this year, telling CHS the focus will be on selecting a new leader for a reinvented chamber powered by the expanded BIA the group is calling the Capitol Hill Alliance.
The chamber says the current version of the Business Improvement Area is on solid footing. “The BBIA is starting 2018 with strong reserves after two years of strong economic growing along Broadway,” the chamber’s announcement on Orion’s hiring says. “Many businesses reported increased foot traffic and customers with the opening of the Capitol Hill light rail station, a welcome change after nearly a decade of construction impacts.”
As for expansion, Sorenson said the process is a street by street, door by door effort. There is “no organized opposition to this,” Sorenson said, but “folks are always concerned about what they are spending their tax dollars on.” He said he believes the expanded BIA and Capitol Hill Alliance will represent “an incredible return on investment.”