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 the financially-threatened Volunteer Park Conservatory., is rallying around its first big effort — collecting donations up through May 1st in a street-long fundraiser to gather support for
“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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.