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Mayor announces cash to support Capitol Hill, CD business groups


Taste of the Caribbean’s Carlene Comrie (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill will once again get a major $137,000 chunk of the city’s Only in Seattle marketing and neighborhood business improvement funding, Mayor Ed Murray announced Thursday night. In addition, the neighborhood will get money to help address the impact from construction in the area and a check will also be cut to help the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce plan for the creation of a larger Business Improvement Area. Meanwhile, the Central District is also in line for a financial boost to help merchants overcome construction woes and a $102,000 Only in Seattle infusion — the latter now enjoying its second major press release from the mayor’s office.

“We just want to create a business that provides some economic support to the community as well as give a taste of our culture,” owner Carlene Comrie said in welcoming the mayor, an assemblage of City Hall staffers, media, and small business owners to her E Jefferson restaurant for Thursday’s announcement. “We’re mostly all Jamaican here and we’re very, very proud of that.” Comrie and business partner Dwayne Blake opened Taste of the Caribbean in 2013.

“This city is changing. But one thing not changing is its neighborhoods’ small businesses,” the mayor said Thursday night.

“You supply jobs. Give us our goods. And create community and culture in our neighborhoods.”

Capitol Hill’s portion of the Only In Seattle pie was part of $1.6 million in funding awarded. Here are the Only in Seattle components:

  • Ballard                        $   85,000
  • Beacon Hill                 $   47,800
  • Capitol Hill                 $ 137,500
  • Central Area                $ 102,000
  • Chinatown-ID             $ 150,880
  • First Hill                      $   40,000
  • Georgetown                $   20,000
  • Hillman City               $   24,700
  • Lake City                    $   75,000
  • Magnolia                     $   15,000
  • Mt. Baker                    $   28,000
  • Othello                        $ 152,275
  • Rainier Beach              $   75,000
  • South Park                  $   60,000

The money can be used by neighborhood business groups to support “business and retail development,” marketing and promotion including events, social media, district advertising, graffiti removal, garbage pick-up, lighting, public art, “business organization development.” In 2015, $1.8 million was doled out under the program.

Additionally, seven neighborhoods including Capitol Hill and First Hill will share $75,000 to study the creation or expansion of Business Improvement Areas. CHS has reported about the Capitol Hill Chamber’s ongoing exploration of enlarging the current Broadway BIA to encompass Pike/Pine. Broadway BIA membership fees and an assessment based on gross income — $2 for every $1,000 generated — provide the bulk of the program’s budget. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area would need vote to approve any agreement. There is a reference, by the way, to the Capitol Hill Chamber’s new brand buried in the Only in Seattle 2016 press release, by the way. Is it time to start calling it the Capitol Hill Alliance? UPDATE: Nope! Chamber says the Alliance reference was a “typo” and should read Capitol Hill Housing.

Part of the grants announced this week include $500,000 for “neighborhoods with paid on-street parking or significant construction impacts for capital improvement projects that enhance the commercial district experience.” Here is what is planned for two in our area:

  • First Hill Active and Attractive Public Spaces $80,000: First Hill Improvement Association will create walking loops in the district, hold fun events in University Street Park and paint the columns under I-5 to create an attractive gateway to the neighborhood.
  • Pike/Pine Safety and Parking Improvements $27,500: The Capitol Hill Alliance will work with local businesses to remove dumpsters, install lighting and develop strategies to share local parking between businesses and residents.

CHS wrote about Pike/Pine’s dumpster issues here and “shared parking” proposals here. It doesn’t look like $27,500 would cover this Cal Anderson lighting plan, though.

The financial boost isn’t massive but it will add incremental power to the Capitol Hill chamber group under its new executive director Sierra Hansen. CHS reported on Hansen’s mission as the nonprofit reshapes itself to reflect the neighborhood’s changing business needs. A look at its latest new members reveals some of that change — how best do you represent the interests of both small employers like the Downtown Dog Lounge and big players like Vulcan or Airbnb?

Meanwhile, the Central District’s $102,000 has been touted and tallied in more than one City Hall announcement — but it’s still $102 grand. In February, the mayor’s office included it in a package of support planned to help 23rd Ave merchants weather ongoing street construction. Two weeks later amid growing criticism, City Hall dropped its anti-mitigation stance and pledged to make another $650,000 available to help Central District small businesses. Unlike the Capitol Hill funding which will be administrated by the chamber, the Central District Only in Seattle money will power the Central Area Collaborative, a group of business and community leaders working on projects like Hack the CD and the Black Dot arts and business co-working space:

The Only in Seattle Initiative works with businesses, property owners, and other community leaders to organize around a common vision for a business district and attract investment. The $102,000 grant supports a group of business and community leaders that have come together as the Central Area Collaborative to align and expand community focused efforts. Similar efforts in neighborhoods like Pioneer Square have used this funding to bring fun activities to city parks, in Chinatown-International District they supported businesses through the Lunar New Year and Dragon Fest, and in Othello they launched a neighborhood brand that celebrates their international community. In the Central Area, the Collaborative wants to support small businesses with programs like Hack the CD and Black Dot arts and business co-working space.

Finally, $30,000 will be spent for City Hall’s Public Outreach and Engagement Liaisons (POEL) “to conduct outreach to under-represented businesses and businesses of color” in six neighborhoods — including Capitol Hill.

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One thought on “Mayor announces cash to support Capitol Hill, CD business groups

  1. What is the Central Area Collaborative? Other than some mention on CHS (I think) a month ago that it was created by city OED & another reference to it being a group of 8 orgs on Centerstone site, don’t see any info on it online. But from what I can see, it very likely is a collection of interconnected groups in the general Africatown sphere, all of which vigorously oppose gentrification. (If wrong, would welcome correction from someone who knows what Central Area Collaborative actually is). But if that’s the case, I find it odd – at least – that’s where the entirety of the CD funds are going. Article notes that is different from CH funds — which go to the neighborhood chamber. In fact that’s the case for EVERY other neighborhood except the CD.

    I’m not saying those aren’t important perspectives or they shouldn’t be involved. They are and they should. But their goals and vision hardly represent the broad view of CD biz (or overall) community, even among those who appreciate and are sympathetic to their perspective