With the press releases and city hall announcements out of the way, 23rd Ave business owners got their first look at the details behind a $650,000+ stabilization plan designed to help them survive months of intense construction in the area. Though the Office of Economic Development proposal was nearly ready for Mayor Ed Murray’s desk, the plan is a work in progress. We’ve shared the draft proposal below.
It’s not going to be a simple handout.
“The fund will be focused on assisting micro businesses that have struggled the most during the project, with an emphasis on low-income business owners and those in danger of displacement,” the OED memo outlining the plan reads.
At a Monday meeting of the 23rd Avenue Action Plan committee, city officials said federal constraints will limit exactly what types of business will be part of the financial mitigation.
Some requirements will be straightforward. To be eligible, businesses must be located within a zone around 23rd Ave between E John and S King and 21st and 25th Ave, and must have been established before the start of the construction project. They will be small with five or fewer employees — including the owner.
But other parameters might make a lawyer’s ears perk up: “Businesses must be a for-profit, independent, non-franchise, retail/service business that relies on walk-in or drive-in clientele as the predominant source of revenue.”
Powered by federal grants already under city control and another $250,000 from the Seattle Investment Fund — a private corporation created by the City that manages fees generated through a federal tax credit program — the financial mitigation will also only be available to businesses with a majority of customers in a “service area where the total resident population is predominantly low and moderate income,” or to owners with household incomes below 80% of the area median income.
And, of course, the business owner must show revenues have decreased since the start of construction.
Meanwhile, businesses in the area that meet a simpler set of parameters may be eligible for tax and utility deferrals in addition to the $650,000 in planned funding.
Monday’s meeting represented the first time area merchants facing hardships from construction during a multi-year project to improve the safety and efficiency of 23rd Ave saw the details of the announced stabilization plan. SDOT officials also announced changes in the construction plan to keep the right of way clear and reduce the impacts from ongoing construction including the creation of a contractor work yard at 24th and Union to store equipment and supplies. SDOT is also doing what it can to modify construction schedules after planned phasing of the construction project had to be scrapped due to what one SDOT official Monday night called “utility conflicts” in the area.
The 23rd Ave group said it would weigh the stabilization plan’s proposals — including the relatively arbitrary borders of the proposed mitigation zone before responding to the mayor’s office. 701 Coffee owner Sara Mae, whose social media efforts helped push the plight of 23rd Ave merchants onto the city’s radar, said she had begun the process of documentation for the stabilization program. Meanwhile, city officials said they don’t yet know how many businesses like Mae’s will qualify for the financial stabilization or deferments and that $650,000 may not be enough to fully support the plan.