New leader, renewed small business focus for Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce

Orion rallying the troops before a neighborhood clean-up a few years back in Cal Anderson Park

It is the kind of story parents trot out to destroy a child with purely sweet and terrible awkwardness: This is where you were conceived. For Egan Orion, the new executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, his mother’s point of conception in an apartment above Broadway is part of his life’s connection and love for the street and the neighborhood.

“My family would come to Capitol Hill during the ’80s to shop at the REI store just across the street from here, and I personally become a Capitol Hill regular in the early ’90s when I was young and newly out and the Hill was the center of gay life in Seattle,” Orion said Friday night during the announcement of his hiring at the chamber’s annual State of the Hill event.

But times change, “And in times of drastic change—the kind we’ve been through these past few years — it’s not always straight-forward for business-owners, residents, and community leaders to get a good grasp on what’s happening, and even harder to figure out what comes next,” Orion said Friday night.

Some of what comes next is already in motion. Continue reading

As full-Hill expansion efforts push forward, PrideFest head tabbed to lead Broadway ‘Business Improvement’

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.  Continue reading

Exit interview: CHS talks with outgoing Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce leader Sierra Hansen

Were you as excited as Sierra Hansen when Capitol Hill Station opened in 2016?

It was only two years ago that the previous executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, Michael Wells, stepped down from his position as leader of the Hill’s chief business advocacy group. Now, his replacement, Sierra Hansen  has transitioned out of the role to head up the the planned-for-expansion Broadway Business Improvement Area on a six-month contract. The chamber’s director of external relations Mel Burchett is stepping up to manage the group. CHS sat down with Hansen to talk shop on a variety of Hill-specific issues and what she learned about the neighborhood during her tenure.

Why did you leave your position as executive director to take over the six month BIA contract? It was a natural time for me to step down. Part of the reason I was brought on board was to re-energize our membership services, really bring a strong membership focus back to the chamber, but also to work on the BIA expansion. In the expansion, I think we left it in a pretty strong place. We engaged new stakeholders that really were not as well organized, particularly in the Melrose area. The organization is kind of at this place where they really need to focus solely on the BIA … there was really nobody with the capacity in-house to do that work because they needed somebody to focus on the BIA expansion and Mel [the chamber’s director of external relations],who is continuing to do the membership and some operational stuff, just didn’t have the bandwidth so I proposed to them that I stay on board to manage the contract and it was a win-win for everybody.

I have remained on extremely friendly terms with the Board and with the staff; I mean, I’m managing the contract so clearly I was not run out of town. I continue to have a really strong relationship with them and I’ve told them that if there’s anything I can do to help with their work—now or in the future—to never hesitate to pick up the phone because I have such a love for this neighborhood and the members and I just feel so humbled and honored [to get to] represent this neighborhood in any kind of capacity. I got so many lovely notes when I announced my departure and I truly feel like I was there representative first. Continue reading

Crunch time for effort to expand Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

Community leaders seeking to expand a Business Improvement Area to advance clean streets, public safety, and business growth across Capitol Hill are looking for a special person to drive creation of the possible $1.6 million program. The candidate needs to be detail oriented and tenacious, able to connect with small business owners and landlords in every nook and cranny of the Hill, and able to track down every single loose end. Sorry, I already have a job.

“People are busy,” says Jeff Peletier, architect at 15th Ave E’s Board and Vellum and spokesperson for the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the efforts to create an expansive Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area. “This economy is insane.”

In these boom times, the job listing for a new campaign manager to wrangle the expansion process is a good sign for those behind the proposed expansion. CHS reported on the February launch of the Hill chamber’s campaign to expand the existing Broadway BIA to encompass Broadway, Pike/Pine, Melrose, as well as 15th and 19th Avenues. The new manager will help drive the day to day to prepare petitions for the City Council as the campaign shifts into an all-out effort to gather signups from 60% of property owners within the proposed boundaries of the expansion. That includes “owners of business property, multi-family residential property, and mixed-use property.” Continue reading

Chamber ramps up campaign for expanded Capitol Hill Business Improvement Area

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.

Open House – Capitol Hill BIA Expansion

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. Continue reading

‘Two amazing, kick-ass women’ — Developers recognized with Capitol Hill Spirit Award

Adele wasn’t the only award winner hoping to share her praise in recent days.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my neighborhood than at this moment,” Pike/Pine developer Liz Dunn told the crowd as she reflected on the wave of activism in the neighborhood at last week’s State of the Hill event held at Optimism Brewing. Continue reading

Chamber director marks first year with preparations for new Capitol Hill Alliance

Sierra Hansen, one year into the job and ready for big changes (Image: CHS)

Sierra Hansen, one year into the job and ready for big changes (Image: CHS)

On the Wednesday after Election Day, Sierra Hansen hit the one year mark as the executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.

Instead of celebrating the career milestone, Hansen spent part of the day mourning the outcome of the election. In the months leading up to Donald Trump’s win, Hansen has been working to transform the chamber and will continue to do so in 2017.

“We’ve exceeded pretty much every fundraising goal we’ve set for ourselves, we’ve exceeded membership, we’ve continued these traditions in the neighborhood, we’ve revitalized … we’ve done so many new and refreshing things, but there are still really important challenges in our neighborhood,” Hansen said.

While Hansen lives in the Alki neighborhood, she previously lived on the Hill and spent more than two decades of her life working, partying, enjoying the food and drink scene, and finding herself as a young bisexual.

“This is still my heart,” Hansen said. Continue reading

Spirit of the Hill nominees announced ahead of Wednesday ceremony

The 2016 State of the Hill event goes down Wednesday night at Grim’s. It’s a chance to celebrate the businesses that help define Capitol Hill as well as one special attendee that best represents “community service, excellence, and passion for this neighborhood.” The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce recently polled its members on who best exemplifies those traits for the 2016 Spirit of the Hill award. And the nominees are… a developer, an attorney and developer, a restaurateur, a community volunteer, an architect, and a community group:

  • Liz Dunn, developer at Dunn + Hobbs, for leadership and commitment to preserving the Pike/Pine corridor
  • Jerry Everard, attorney at Groff Murphy, for years of philanthropy and commitment to the Capitol Hill neighborhood
  • Rich Fox, owner at Rhein Haus and Poquitos, for years of advocacy surrounding small business in Capitol Hill
  • Don Jensen for his work with Capitol Hill Community Lunch
  • Jeff Pelletier, principal architect at Board & Velum, for stewardship on 15th Avenue
  • Volunteer Park Trust — for community engagement and beautification of Capitol Hill.

This year, CHCC director Sierra Hansen will deliver her first State of the Hill address after taking over for Michael Wells last year. You can purchase the $40 tickets for the event here. Members and non-members are welcome to attend.

Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce tabs PR heavy hitter as next director

Hansen (Image via Linkedin)

Hansen (Image via Linkedin)

A West Seattle public relations star with years of big organization experience will be the next to lead the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. On Wednesday, the group’s board announced Sierra Hansen as the organization’s next executive director, marking an end to the board’s two month search.

Talking about her days as a young lesbian living on the Hill in the 1990s, Hansen said she was excited for the opportunity to be part of the neighborhood that embraced her as she first arrived in Seattle. “It was the one place I could be who I was. It will be nice to give back to the community,” Hansen tells CHS.

The job pays $70,000 to $85,000, requires a bachelor’s, and a “familiarity working within culturally diverse surroundings.”

“Capitol Hill is a diverse, growing community with a vast group of stakeholders,” said chamber board co-chair Jill Cronauer of Hunters Capital in a statement on the hire. “Sierra’s background and experience will be a tremendous asset to the Chamber and our membership to ensure our organization helps shape the community’s future by responding to our neighborhood’s challenges and opportunities. We are excited by the leadership and experience Sierra will bring to this role.”

“I am thrilled to join the CHCC in this role and look forward to working closely with the Board and membership to grow our neighborhood’s business district,” Hansen said in the statement. “I’ve lived, shopped, dined, danced, worked, explored, attended school and walked in Capitol Hill for more than 20 years. I even legally married my wife Barb in Cal Anderson Park on Pride Sunday 2013. It was the first place I felt embraced and accepted and I look forward to give back to the community.”

With a deep resume that includes 17 years of corporate and government marketing and communications work, Hansen will lead the 215-member neighborhood business association through a major shift in culture and purpose as the board seeks to expand its footprint in the neighborhood. Continue reading

Community advocate recognized for work on Broadway light rail development

Hillenbrand (Image courtesy Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce)

Hillenbrand (Image courtesy Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce)

The Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce has selected resident and community advocate Catherine Hillenbrand as recipient of its 2014 Spirit Award. The award recognizes “a Capitol Hill community member who has done outstanding work to benefit the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

Hillenbrand led the process to organize community priorities in the development of property surrounding the future Capitol Hill Station. Last week, CHS reported the bidding process had opened to become part of the development opportunity on this central stretch of Broadway.

In 2013, the organization honored Kay Rood for her work in shaping Cal Anderson Park.

The 2014 award will presented at the group’s annual Spirit of the Hill dinner slated for February 20th at Fred Wildlife Refuge. The chamber’s announcement of the 2014 selection is below. Continue reading