The growing pains — and opportunities — of a booming Capitol Hill have the neighborhood’s chamber of commerce looking at a major expansion — and a possible reinvention as an umbrella organization more widely representing the business community and the neighborhood. If nothing else, it might be time for a new name for the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce — the Capitol Hill Alliance, anyone?
A plan outlining the vision dubbed Capitol Hill 2020 has been quietly released by the organization which plans to celebrate the work with an upcoming party — and then set to work to make the project’s initiatives a reality. A full version of the plan is embedded below. Beyond the document’s role in guiding the chamber, the analysis and the organization’s takeaways will undoubtedly stir debate in the community about what comes next.
CHS was invited to be a “partner organization” and allowed to review the plan twice — once in the project’s early phases earlier this year and again this month as the project’s draft was posted at capitolhill2020.org. CHS has partnered with the chamber for community events in the past and the chamber is currently a paid CHS advertiser.
The new mission could put the the chamber into a role not exactly synonymous with business and growth — neighborhood preservationist.
“Capitol Hill 2020 is an economic direction for Capitol Hill as the neighborhood experiences tremendous growth and opportunity,” the document begins. “The plan on the following pages seeks to preserve the neighborhood’s progressive nature as it makes bold moves toward the future.”
The vision end of things includes “4 bold moves” —
- Evolve the Chamber — Grow the chamber into a larger representative neighborhood business leadership organization to guide progress.
- Clean & Safe District — Increase and expand cleaning and safety services throughout the Hill.
- Prepare for Growth — Support the Hill through imminent and necessary changes to the neighborhood while protecting and preserving our unique cultural assets.
- Vital & Active Retail — Balance nighttime and daytime neighborhood vitality.
- Nightlife – Ensure that Capitol Hill’s vibrant nightlife scene is safe and healthy for patrons and workers alike.
- Retail/Office – Recruit and retain retail and offices to make daytime on the Hill as active as the nighttime.
- Events – Work with major event producers to manage neighborhood impacts for everyone’s benefit.
- Arts – Preserve and promote the arts culture for patrons and artists.
Funded by a combination of grants and member fees from its 300 or so strong base and not affiliated with the national U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an expanded chamber could also mean an expanded assessment zone to fund its initiatives.
Currently, the chamber administrates the Broadway Business Improvement Area managing trash pick-up and graffiti removal around that business area. Last spring, that BIA slightly expanded its borders — but bigger changes could be ahead.
A BIA’s presence also extends beyond trash and graffiti. The organizations have become conduits for solving neighborhood issues and opportunities with city programs. SPD and other departments check in with the boards and program leaders for buy-in, sign-off and community representation. At a civic level, the groups have clout.
Under the current agreement, the Broadway BIA is limited to changes in its assessment rates and borders that come in under a 10% increase in assessment revenue. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area would need vote to approve any agreement to create new borders under the city’s Office of Economic Development program. Then the agreement must be approved by the City Council.
Under the Capitol Hill 2020 plan, the chamber’s charter would grow beyond BIA type responsibilities to also include more formal structure — and funding — to deal with issues like representing Capitol Hill in projects like the Convention Center expansion, public safety concerns around gay and trans bashing, or mitigation for businesses and residents from the impacts of development and construction. It could also position the chamber to more effectively help power and fund groups like the Capitol Hill Community Council to tackle neighborhood issues. And there is the upcoming structure of the newly partitioned City Council and District 3 administration to consider, too, in how the future chamber sets its self up.
You can learn more about the project and how to provide feedback at capitolhill2020.org.
The full Capitol Hill 2020 plan is below.