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Effort to expand Broadway improvement district in 2014 getting legs

You Look Fine, originally uploaded by aaronbrethorst.

The BIA as it stands today

Take a walk through Capitol Hill and it would be obvious even to the greenest of transplants that Broadway is no longer the neighborhood’s defining business corridor. It is, however, the only one to have a Business Improvement Area — a member-contributed organization that funds everything from trash and graffiti clean up, to marketing and advocacy campaigns.

CHS reported in February about early efforts by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce to expand the Broadway BIA to Pike/Pine and possibly beyond. The chamber is the “administrative agent” for the Broadway BIA.

Earlier this year the chamber applied for an up-to-$200,000 “Only in Seattle” grant to facilitate a conversation among Capitol Hill business and property owners about collaborating on security, the area’s day/night business mix, height zoning, and of course, parking and trash.

Director Michael Wells said expanding the BIA would likely be a big part of that conversation. “What’s the scope? How big do we make this thing?” Wells said.

Wells said he expects the grant decision within a couple weeks and the money will also help fund other chamber promotional efforts and programs.. In the meantime, the chamber is planning to move forward with BIA expansion discussions to have a plan ready for early 2015.

One of the biggest decisions will be where to draw the new BIA lines.

Do Pike/Pine, 12th, and 15th gerrymander their way into a contiguous expansion of the current BIA, or do they form their own BIA fiefdoms?  Another issue current and future BIA members will have to sort out is how to fund their activities. Currently, Broadway BIA members pay a small percentage of their quarterly income into a BIA fund. Another model is to have members pay based on their square footage. Currently on the Hill, membership fees and an assessment based on gross income — $2 for every $1,000 generated — provide the bulk of the program’s budget.

Any major changes to the Broadway BIA, including expanding its budget or boundaries, would require approval by members who add up to 60% of gross retail sales of the area.

The city’s Office of Economic Development BIA consultant Brian Scott tells CHS that the Broadway BIA, formed in 1986, has many of the characteristics of older structures from that time including the funding model that depends on self-reported sales tax. A model that calculates contribution by square footage would be more transparent.

“The great thing about it is the people that provide the money get to decide what’s getting done,” Scott said. “If you want to pay more to get more cleaning on your corner you can do that. It’s real local control grass roots organizing.”

But before any major BIA expansion, the chamber is setting its sights on a much smaller move to extend the Broadway BIA one block to cover Pike and another half-block to cover the Odd Fellow’s building on 10th. The City Council will decide on the preliminary expansion early in 2014.

UPDATE 5/14/14: The City Council’s finance and culture committee is bringing forward a plan for the approximately 10% expansion of the BIA. According to a City Hall staff memo, a public hearing on the expansion will take place in early June before final adoption of the plan.Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 2.53.12 PM

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9 thoughts on “Effort to expand Broadway improvement district in 2014 getting legs

  1. A much-needed development. I hope the BIA includes the length of Pike and Pine Streets from downtown to 14th/15th Avenues. The current litter- and graffiti-strewn character of these streets detracts from their ability to attract a diverse shopping clientele and turns people off.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Pike-Pine is a mess, and only acceptable for hipsters who have a high tolerance for litter, graffiti, overflowing trash cans/dumpsters, crime, old posters up to several inches thick on utility poles, drug dealing, drunks, etc (now I expect a reply along the lines of “Hey Calhoun, it’s all part of the urban experience, man!”). I think our neighborhood has been in denial of the ugly reality of that area. It is quite a contrast to the rest of Capitol Hill, incuding Broadway north of Pine.

      Expanding the BIA would help a lot.

      • I think I like the grittiness and that there are two sides to the coin in our landscape here, but it’ll be interesting to see how the Chamber charges businesses equitably.

        The Pike/Pine area will be infinitely more expensive to clean, repair, and maintain and if there isn’t a separate equation to have the clubs/bars pick up those cost spikes, neighboring retail, closed at night when most of the damage is done, will bear a good portion of the burden. Same can be said of the businesses within the current BIA footprint, having their dollars going towards a disproportionate amount of cleaning outside of their current BIA borders.

  2. I live just north of the Broadway commercial strip, and I don’t know how anyone who frequents broadway could have a good impression of the BIA. If the current condition of Browadway from Pine to Roy is any indication of the work of the BIA or the CHCC, I’d be wary that expansion will bring much improvement.

    Why? We have a dozen empty commercial spaces, a hodgepodge of awnings, business signs, sandwich boards and other sidewalk clutter. I’m not suggesting we need to have a uniform look, but it would be great if the BIA could help property owners improve the streetscape in front of their buildings.

    Take the Broadway Alley for example: every business rolls out a different size and shaped sign onto the sidewalk, most of which block smooth pedestrian passage. A derelict bike rack doesn’t help either. Why not work with the building owner to create one nice and reasonable signboard that can be placed at the curb directing people to the various businesses found inside?

    Graffiti takes days to get covered when it appears (the Gallerias space was a blank canvas for all of 1 night before the plywood got tagged and it took a few days before those tags got painted over). Perhaps this is a (dis)function of the BIA being funded by a “tax” on sales. When you need funds the most (when businesses are closing or closed down) you have the least of it. Far better would be to assess commercial real estate by square foot.

    We do have 8 banks though, so that’s something. And a few mornings a month a guy with a 2-stroke leaf blower makes a feeble attempt to blow leaves off the sidewalk and into the street while making noise and air pollution for morning commuters.

    • We also have mini-Westlake Park at Broadway and Harrison, which the cops can’t/won’t do anything about since it’s private property and the Department of Justice has the SPD shaking in their boots about doing anything proactive. Broadway prospers in spite of its conditions.

      • You’re right, t. That NE corner of Broadway & Harrison was “occupied” for several weeks by a group of street vagrants. The police did nothing because the building owner/manager turned a blind eye, even though they were trashing his/her property on a daily basis. The group has been gone lately, but that’s probably due to the cold weather more than anything else.

        To GregoryH….yes, there are problems along Broadway (minor ones compared to Pike-Pine), but the street would be far more trashy if it weren’t for the daily work done by Cleanscapes, which is under contract with the BIA.

      • While I don’t doubt that cleanscapes does a fair bit of cleaning up and emptying of trashcans (they should ditch the blowers for brooms and leaf vacuums, seriously, they would be far more effective,) I’d like to see the BIA go a few steps beyond simple maintenance toward IMPROVEMENT. Specifically sidewalk access, and streetscape issues. That means dealing with the clusters of sidewalk signs and other things that constrict the flow of pedestrian traffic on sidewalks and generally just look disorderly. Better bike racks would be another improvement, and aesthetic awnings would be one more.

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