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With attention on Pike/Pine, Broadway and 15th Ave merchants bootstrapping their own way

The 2011 Broadway Pride Festival —
The musical stylings of Pasquale,
originally uploaded by Miss Q Pix.

Frustrated by the amount of attention focused on Pike/Pine and driven to do more to help their own areas, two grassroots business groups have sprung from the weeds and are working to fill in the cracks the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce can’t always reach.

“A bunch of us that really thrive well in community got together to figure out what we can do for 15th because Pike/Pine and Broadway get so much press,” Jeremy Hardy of Coastal Kitchen tells CHS. 

Their group, the 15th Ave Merchants Association, is rallying around its first big effort — collecting donations up through May 1st in a street-long fundraiser to gather support for the financially-threatened Volunteer Park Conservatory.

“We don’t know how it’s going to turn out but it will be a lighting rod, galvanizing experience,” Hardy says of the promotion in which restaurants and retailers will rally together to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Friends of the Conservatory group. There are no web sites, no Twitter feeds, no formal positions for the group — yet. Hardy says the first months have been about pulling together on small efforts like supporting the conservatory and that the various business involved — from Rainbow Remedies to the Hopving to the Hilltop Service Station — will combine their individual marketing capabilities to let their customers and communities know about the effort.

Things are more slick down on Broadway. There, a group of businesses frustrated by their experiences with the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the city-mandated Broadway Business Improvement Area (BIA) have come together to form the Broadway Business Owners Association.

 “We’ve really seen the Pine and Pike corridor coming together and our part of it just dying down like an old wilted flower,” Karsten Betd said. His Julia’s and a confederacy of Broadway restaurants and retailers decided to hold a meeting a few months ago.  “We were all surprised how many showed up,” he said.

The energy has helped things come together quickly for the BBOA. It already has its first major event planned — a May 20th Bite of Broadway featuring $3 samples and music along the thoroughfare. There’s a Facebook page. And a Twitter feed. They’re organized as a non-profit, Betd says and a simple set of bylaws are in place. The group even has its own media outlet.

What it doesn’t have is money or formal support from the chamber of commerce or the BIA. Betd says the group is working on that and is especially concerned about business mitigation funds provided to the chamber by Sound Transit as part of the U-Link project.

The Sound Transit money — a mitigation package of several million dollars, according to the Chamber — has been used to fund events, an art program, training courses and a promotional web site.

“Yes they gave money to the Chamber. But honestly I don’t know what they did with that,” Betd said.

Michael Wells, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and head of the BIA since taking over on an interim basis in 2010, said he’s looking at ways to work with the new groups. “At the Chamber we do our best to serve all of our members all over the Hill but we encourage all of these groups to put together programming that speaks to those individual needs,” he said. “The Chamber will work to support them in whatever way we can.”

Wells said the Chamber helped connect the 15th Ave group with the Friends of the Conservatory and has helped another new Capitol Hill business group — CHEW Capitol Hill Entrepreneurial Women — apply for grants from the City of Seattle.

The impact from the formation of the new groups might not be felt by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce immediately but in the long run, the regional groups could make recruiting members for the large organization even more challenging. While the Chamber has been in the middle of discussions on everything from extending the streetcar to the preservation of Pike/Pine to crime in Cal Anderson Park, small Capitol Hill businesses will have to make the decision on forking over $200 to $300 a year to be part of the body.

Who can serve Hilltop’s needs? (Image: CHS)

Wells said the chamber’s success could be part of what is driving the changes. “I also think that the recent formation of these groups speaks to the fact that merchants have begun to see what kind of a difference can be made when  districts speak with a collective voice,” Wells said. “I think that the successes that the Capitol Hill Chamber has had in influencing city policy and planning on Capitol Hill — our work with Sound Transit & the streetcar, for example — has sent a clear message that all of us are stronger when we work together.”

On Broadway, Wells said the BIA has had its hands full keeping Broadway clean since 1986. “The Broadway BIA cleans the streets, hang the flower baskets, purchase the banners and winter decorations on the street and creates and maintains public art projects on Broadway (the signal light box art and the Red Wall art that we’ve steadily worked on with the Sound Transit Art program),” Wells said. “I sometimes think that we’ve had a Broadway BIA for so long that people have forgotten what Broadway would look like without these amenities.”

Still, Wells said there is BIA budget for marketing efforts that would benefit the entirety of the Broadway business community.

Jeffrey Wilson of Americana tells CHS he is getting involved with the new Broadway group for simpler reasons. “The BIA is a lot more talk than getting stuff done,” he said. He’s excited to be part of a promotion like the Bite and plans to keep music on Sundays going through the summer. You should stop by or drop him a note if you and your trio would like to play, he said.

Julia’s Eladio Preciado serves as president of the newly formed group. Broadway Pagliacci’s Brandon Ogestelli serves as VP. But the lightning rod is secretary Charlette LeFevre.

LeFevre surprised many in 2009 when she successfully brought Pride back to Broadway with the now-annual Pride Festival.

“We all did well that day,” Betd said of the inaugural Pride Festival in 2009. “We all take our hat off now and bow in front of her. I’m very grateful for her doing that. Out of that pretty much sparked our little group.”

LeFevre moved her museum off Broadway and off Capitol Hill two years ago but continues to be a driving force on Broadway and the Pride Festival will return in 2012.

Betd says to expect more events and marketing efforts for Broadway. “We’ve got ideas,” he said. “Let’s try to bring people up to Broadway. We finally got our asses in gear.”

Potential shoppers demonstrating the walkability of 15th Ave E (Image: CHS)

You can expect more on 15th Ave, too. 

Hardy said the short term goals for the 15th Ave Merchants include more events and opportunities to market around holidays. In the longer term, Hardy says his own hope is the group can do more to complete the vision of the street as an urban village and make improvements to the walkability of the area. Soon, the biggest addition to 15th Ave since Smith will arrive in the form of The Wandering Goose. “We’re in pretty good shape up here already,” Hardy said.

A City of Seattle study of 15th Ave showed the restaurants and stores responding to its survey averaged more than 12 years of business. “The biggest threats to the 15th Avenue commercial district are thought to be encroachment of franchise businesses and the anticipated expansion of the Group Health campus,” the study’s 15th Ave analysis concluded. The same study concluded that Broadway’s biggest challenges were “perceived encroachments on personal safety, panhandling, and lack of parking.”

Back at Julia’s, Betd said it is time for BBOA to make its own way. “I was hoping that the chamber would get these things started, “he said. “I know they’re doing things for all of Capitol Hill but they should be the one doing the things that Charlette is doing.”

In the meantime, the Chamber is doing what it can to reach out to Capitol Hill’s edges. Its monthly mixer Thursday afternoon will be at 19th Ave E’s Health First Chiropractic.

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8 years ago

I’m not at all sure the formation of the “BBOA” is a good idea, and would like to know the back story as to why this is thought to be necessary. I would assume that there is alot of tension between some Broadway business owners and the already-established groups (BIA and Chamber), and some degree of dissatisfaction with how the older groups operate….ok, that’s legitimate maybe, but have they actually tried to work within the established groups to accomplish the changes they desire? Starting another group will only fragment membership and is detrimental to unified actions on Broadway.

I think the BIA is a crucial element in keeping Broadway business and people friendly. Without its contract with Cleanscapes to clean the street on a daily basis, Broadway would turn into the shithole that is parts of Pike-Pine (tattered old posters, litter everywhere, graffiti on every possible surface, overflowing dumpsters, etc.). I think what the BIA does has been taken for granted by many, and its time their efforts were more appreciated.

8 years ago

I feel for the merchants North of John, now, two monolithic buildings are sucking the light and air from the avenue, humans need both to feel alive, to sustain peace and create desire. Those sensitive to mass and light might feel the impending anonymity of those massive structures overwhelming, I do.
In my opinion we blew it by allowing the height limit to be increased without more site specific setbacks.
I hope BBOA can find creative ways to help fire up some interest and life in North Broadway,

8 years ago

“…In the longer term, Hardy says his own hope is the group can do more to complete the vision of [15th] as an urban village and make improvements to the walkability of the area…”

I can see that there is room for some modest infill along 15th (hopefully in the form of filling the empty extant structures/suites), but how much more walkable could it be?

8 years ago

So the ringleader runs some “air quote” museum that isn’t on the Hill, she doesn’t live on the Hill, she doesn’t own a business on the Hill, she doesn’t work on the Hill, but she wants to stick her nose in the middle and cause strife amongst longstanding groups in our neighborhood.

Got it.

Tonight's Mixer
8 years ago

You can find more information on tonight’s 19th Avenue Mixer here:

We’d love for you to come, everyone is welcome and it will be great fun.

Charles Hamilton
8 years ago

History repeats itself, with some interesting twists. So Broadway is complaining that Pike/Pine gets too much attention? How ironic, given that only a few years ago, it was the other way around.

Capitol Hill has always had several business districts that have very little to do with one another — Pike/Pine, Broadway, 10th Ave., 12th Ave., 15th Ave., 19th Ave., Olive/John — and (the one everyone forgets) the businesses that don’t have storefronts at all, and work out of their kitchens, but still are interested in improving the business climate in the community. Talk about herding cats!

The current Chamber has not been successful in bringing all these groups together, and its predecessors — the previous Chamber, the old BIA, the old 15th Avenue merchants’ group — weren’t either. But two things are different now:
— The city and Sound Transit are pouring money into the neighborhood, and
— Local businesses have to compete not only with their historic competitors (downtown, U-Village) but also with virtual merchants like Amazon.
If we want to maintain a vibrant business environment on the Hill, we need to find ways of working together rather than splintering at every opportunity.

8 years ago

I can speak only for a portion and not the whole, I don’t think anyone should.

As VP of BBOA we see ourselves as an addition to a process that is already installed on Broadway. The BIA is a good organization that does a lot of good for the area and does not get credit for the things they do.

But that said there is a limit to the amount of things they can devote their time on and only so thin they can spread themselves. The BBOA was created as a way to throw parties, have events and create buzz for all of the changes and new businesses that are coming to the area. We began to plan and execute an event in the first 3 meetings and are now preparing to hold it in around two months. We have a list of items for the future that we would like to plan and hold and with the CHCC and BIAs help improve out part of the hill.

To your questions about working with the already established groups – some of us have, some of us are new, some of us are older but we are all invested in the health and success of this area. The compartmentalization of the process is, to me, a better way to do this. We plan and execute, BIA and Chamber assist, direct, give input and support. There is an overlap also to the groups, we share members and interests. We all care for the larger picture, I feel.

We are a group formed for a purpose – Events, excitement and interest.

8 years ago

I live right next to 15th and I’d love to see some sort of event or maybe a summer street festival with music and vendors. There’s a surprisingly high number of awesome businesses on 15th that are easy to forget/overlook with all of the constant change on Broadway/Pike/Pine.

8 years ago

Business suffering?

Solution: Serve food that doesn’t suck.

8 years ago

Poppy is suffering. Altura is suffering. Or not.

Gee, how are THESE businesses different than other businesses? Darn, what a poser! Oh, I see, they don’t suck. Architecture only has so much influence.

Fed Up
8 years ago

Why would you want the attention of Broadway or Pike/Pine? The attention from outsiders is KILLING those areas character and what made them attractive in the first place! Now they’re just cookie cutter snooze fests owned by asshole suburbanites who don’t live, work, or play on the Hill. Save yourself, 15th Ave, and DON’T follow the disgusting trend of selling out that Broadway and Pike/Pine have.

Like many others, I think it’s time to move off this yuppie infested hellhole of a Hill and go to Portland, where they still care about their locals.

8 years ago

15th has always been a more distinct biz district, with different needs relative to Broadway. As other areas of the hill are really taking off, I think 15th needs a group to advocate on its behalf and make sure that its little character stays intact and grows in thoughtful ways.

However, as Broadway heads into MORE enormous change – streetcar construction and expansion and the build out of the buildings around Light Rail, I think there are distinct disadvantages to having multiple groups. Who will the City Council talk directly too? What if one group gets left out of a meeting? This level of complexity is sure to cause problems unless the leaders are really clear about forming alliances and keeping them. Why not just create a sub-committee at the Chamber? And what about Sound Transit money? Shouldn’t some of that be used for N Broadway? By being an all together new group, can they access these funds at the Chamber? There are already so many cooks in the kitchen up here. One of the main problems that has plagued Capitol Hill has been the ability to come together with a single voice and powerfully advocate for interests. I really hope this doesn’t repeat old problems.

8 years ago

Seattle/Capitol Hill/Broadway has no vision, no passion, no creativity that is visible to me. I walk the area daily and see what COULD be, with just a little enthusiasm and imagination, but almost every business around here seems content with mediocrity – mediocre product, mediocre service, mediocre engagement with the community. Seattle neighborhoods open businesses like kids do lemonade stands. They get a store front, stick up a sign, and hope customers show up. I wonder if it’s a reflection of the larger Seattle mentality that everything anyone here does is AMAZING and artsy and wonderful and fantastic, when it’s really just very average. Or maybe it comes from lack of exposure to the larger world and the way successful neighborhoods are being created and maintained elsewhere. Seattle in general just doesn’t seem to WANT to do much more than what you already see. It’s just a such a passive way of doing things that it leaves me wondering why even bother if the heart that should be in it doesn’t show. I’m willing to help in any way I can, but you all have to want more for yourself as a community.

8 years ago

I try to be positive on this blog, but I couldn’t agree more. I used to love to go to the Julia’s in Wallingford, but I had two terrible meals in a row at the Broadway location and I haven’t been back since.

While I don’t really agree with starting another Broadway business group when there are already two of them, I will let those that want to participate put their efforts to good use and hope for the best. That said, it’s a bit disingenuous for Julia’s to be complaining that the Chamber isn’t “doing enough to help them” when multiple non-profits I’ve talked to consistently say that Julia’s never provides any community support. For a gay-owned, gay-oriented restaurant, when is the last time you saw a fundraiser or event for one of those groups in that space? I may be wrong, but I can’t recall any at all…

8 years ago

OK, I tend to agree with you that there are plenty of missed opportunities, especially as Broadway has suffered through a hard decade and non-stop construction from one end of the business district to another…

But whether you like it or not Pike/Pine is considered one of the most vibrant urban neighborhoods in the country. And, need I remind you of little old companies like Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, numerous biotech and high tech companies and a slew of public health oriented organizations that have all come out of Seattle? Seems pretty passionate, vibrant and successful to me.

We can always learn to do better, but let’s be real about what we have, too.

8 years ago

What you say is true in the abstract, but that isn’t the way it FEELS on a day-to-day living on Broadway and patronizing the local businesses. Helping to spot and take advantage of those missed opportunities is what I’m trying to help the neighborhood do. I’m sure it’s natural to for some residents to become defensive to criticism, but, really, I’m trying to give Seattle an opportunity to hear some honest feedback on what the business groups in this article say they want to improve. Let’s not distract from that by talking past one another at cross-purposes.

I wasn’t including Pike/Pine b/c that isn’t what the article was focusing on, although that area isn’t without its criticisms either.

8 years ago

I don’t go out of my way to be positive but I do try to be honest. I’ll drink at Julia’s and, honestly, I might even eat there but… I have a number of friends/acquaintances who would rather pass so we go someplace else. Sure, businesses should band together and address common interests but there’s something to be said for individual action and self-improvement.

8 years ago

bogestelli, as VP of the BBOA I hope you’re proud of the bright colorful posters – that have your group’s name incorrect. “PRESENTED BY BOAA”? Might want to spend some of that meeting time proofreading marketing materials before splashing them on blogs and Facebook.

8 years ago

Yes, exactly. Charlette LeFevre has been a very divisive person in the past, and there is no reason to think she will be any different now.

It seems to me that the new group is designed mainly to stage events and to increase business/profits for certain businesses, not to contribute in a meaningful way to the overall health of the Broadway neighborhood.

8 years ago

I agree. I tried Julia’s out once…mediocre food, poor service…never went back, and never will.

Americana is a much better choice.

8 years ago

Totally agree! 15th has some awesome restaurants and coffee shops, but gets overlooked because of Broadway and now Pike/Pine. Little brothers’ need love too.

food at julia's
8 years ago

I agree. The food at Julia’s on Capitol Hill is terrible. Is it owned by the same people as the Julia’s on Wallingford? Because the two restaurants at like night and day. I’ll never eat at Julia’s on Capitol Hill again.

8 years ago

The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland.

Charlie Day
8 years ago

i wish I could slap people sensitive to mass and light’s faces till they turned to jelly.

Seattle is no Portland.

Go. Leave. No one really gives a shit about preserving the fantasy land you created in your own mind.