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As full-Hill expansion efforts push forward, PrideFest head tabbed to lead Broadway ‘Business Improvement’

As it works to convince property owners to expand its presence and services across Capitol Hill, the Broadway Business Improvement Area and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce are turning to the organizer credited with rescuing last year’s Pride street festival to manage the day to day effort around clean streets, public safety, and business growth services.

Egan Orion of One Degree Events and PrideFest has been hired as the new administrator of the Broadway BIA, the chamber announced Tuesday.

The move comes as chamber leaders, business owners, and landlords across the Hill are considering a major expansion of the BIA to encompass areas including Broadway, Pike/Pine, Melrose, as well as 15th and 19th Avenues. 

At the launch of the campaign in February 2017, the chamber said it already had support from about 30% of the property owners to be impacted by the assessments which could run between $2,000 and $5,000 per year for most of the 850 or so properties involved. 60% of all potential members in the existing and newly proposed area must vote to approve any agreement to create new borders under the city’s Office of Economic Development program. Then each BIA agreement must be approved by the Seattle City Council. The expanded Capitol Hill BIA would be similar in structure to ones in Pioneer Square, SODO, University District, Ballard, West Seattle and downtown.

Because of the city’s legislative and budget cycles, it is already getting down to the wire. If the Capitol Hill expansion effort is going to move forward this year, the 60% package of property owners needs to be wrapped up by mid-summer.

Jack Sorensen, who is organizing the effort to sign owners up for the expanded BIA, tells CHS that the process faces a critical push in the next four months. “It’s definitely go time for it to happen this year,” Sorensen said.

The proposed expansion areas

Currently, the chamber administrates the Broadway Business Improvement Area as it manages trash pick-up and graffiti removal around the retail core. Orion’s role will be to manage the current BIA as area businesses and landowners look at the current program and decide if the costs make sense to expand the program to their areas of the Hill.

Orion’s selection follows the exit of chamber executive director Sierra Hansen who stepped down from her leadership role after two years on the job. It also comes in the wake of Orion’s successful application for PrideFest to once again produce the Broadway Pride weekend street festival after the event’s founder lost the city permit for the event in 2017 and faced issues with a lack of support from the Broadway business community.

“This event is the single largest annual event on Capitol Hill with more than 40,000 attendees who come to celebrate the Seattle’s LGBTQI community and largest historic gay neighborhood,” the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce’s announcement of Orion’s new role with the BBIA reads. “In addition to the sponsorship, the BBIA board approved additional funding for booth space to ensure that the brick and mortar businesses within and adjacent to the festival area benefit from the enhanced visibility and potential customers.”

Jeff Pelletier of 15th Ave’s Board and Vellum and director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce board said the BBIA has also approved “new funding for homelessness outreach services.”

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Pelletier said the chamber does not plan to hire a new executive director to replace Hansen this year, telling CHS the focus will be on selecting a new leader for a reinvented chamber powered by the expanded BIA the group is calling the Capitol Hill Alliance.

The chamber says the current version of the Business Improvement Area is on solid footing. “The BBIA is starting 2018 with strong reserves after two years of strong economic growing along Broadway,” the chamber’s announcement on Orion’s hiring says. “Many businesses reported increased foot traffic and customers with the opening of the Capitol Hill light rail station, a welcome change after nearly a decade of construction impacts.”

As for expansion, Sorenson said the process is a street by street, door by door effort. There is “no organized opposition to this,” Sorenson said, but “folks are always concerned about what they are spending their tax dollars on.” He said he believes the expanded BIA and Capitol Hill Alliance will represent “an incredible return on investment.”

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15 thoughts on “As full-Hill expansion efforts push forward, PrideFest head tabbed to lead Broadway ‘Business Improvement’” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. A nice Broadway improvement would be somebody leasing the old Broadway Grill née Bafferts restaurant space. That has become an eyesore.

    • Those numbers that list ” space available ” are fake if you call them. Problem is original store front was built almost a hundred years ago. The roof is failing and the floors are falling apart. The biggest issue is that next door used to be a gas station with rotting tanks underneath which have to be removed at great expense. It and the old Basin & Robbins place will both be demolished and replace with what else. mixed retail and expensive condos!

  2. Sure this all sounds good. Hey, getting rid of graffiti and more timely removal of garbage sounds great. But what about the city doing its job with the money we already pay them? Yes, I’m a local business owner. And I’m opposed to this. This is another tax that gets added to my overhead. Yes, this drives up rent. Remember how much we all hate the escalating rents? I keep my area clean. Most businesses do a good job of this. The city should do the rest. The way they are figuring out the assessments is also not fair.

    • I agree. If the city’s voters would elect people who would actually do the business of running the city, we wouldn’t need this. Unfortunately, our council member clearly has other aspirations than dealing with day to day life on the Hill.

    • I can understand your concern about a new tax, but the reality is that you would wait until the cows come home for the City to do its job as far as trash, graffiti, old poster removal, etc. One only has to compare Broadway, which under the BIA is kept relatively clean, to Pike-Pine, which under the City only is not. Some degree of privatization is absolutely necessary to make our neighborhood more livable. And, yes, that is good for businesses like yours.

  3. Despite the name, the expanded BIA doesn’t tax just businesses. It is an increased property tax on multifamily residences, while exempting lower density, higher cost townhouses, all to increase business revenue. So, new, million dollar townhouses in the arbitrarily drawn boundaries would pay nothing, while neighbors in apartments (old and new) would see a property tax hike. There are serious problems with this proposal.

  4. I hope the business owners come together to support this because it is sorely needed. I also share their frustration with the city council and city attorney continuing to make it necessary because they enable the zombie apocolypse. Now the council wants to dump a safe consumption site on Capitol Hill and raise taxes on businesses to fund its $5 million/year price tag even though it will undermine the viability of the business districts that pay the tax. If that happens, it is a lost cause trying to clean up the garbage, tagging and crime. It will continue to increase as Capitol Hill takes in all the riff raff from all over the city, King County and beyond. In other words, it will be permantly blighted like it is around the safe injection site in Vancouver. I hope business owners on Capitol Hill give the council and mayor an earful to stop this nonsense. They and we deserve better. This is no way to run a city. It is not like this in other countries rich and poor. It is a disgrace, and it has severely eroded the public realm. People are fed up, and next election there will be a reckoning.

  5. This is just another tax, that will do little but will increase the cost to do business. It will drive out small business and will add to the cost
    to rent an apartment. I ask all business and property owners to
    vote no on this proposal. All this city is raising the cost to live and
    work here. Do not endorse this proposal

    • Without people organizing to support the neighborhood (which requires funds) there is no “here” to live and work in. Pass an income tax and maybe this wouldn’t be as necessary.

  6. The answer isn’t always another tax. If the city demonstrated they delivered with the money they already receive, perhaps it would be worth providing them more resources. Unfortunately the opposite is true. Two independent studies, paid for by the city, concluded that we don’t need to spend more on the homeless situation, we just need to spend it in the places that have proven to work. But now we get, a city council that wants a head tax on employees. Really easy to spend other people’s money. This BIA is no different.

    • Max,

      You seem like an intelligent person. Unfortunately, every tine you run out of arguments you attack people for their suppposed lack of compassion, closed mindedness, or other personality fault. It gets a little old. Stick with addressing the issues and leave the personal attacks aside.

  7. Wouldnt it be appropriate to use some of the money from the soon to be proposed and enacted employee head tax to address the problems the BBIA hopes to tackle privately? Why not use some of that $150 million plus to clean up some of the graffit, trash and other problems which plague the neighborhoods hosting an inordinate number of homeless people? With so much new money being prooosed to address homelessness, it seems reasonable to expect the city to renew it’s efforts in this regard. Such an effort woukd make the proposed expansion unnecessary. And yes, this is just another way of saying, Hey, city of Seattle. Do your job with the funds we are giving you.

  8. Hey Max,
    You assume that since I believe we should spend money where it will do the most good, that I’m heartless. So when you are about to buy a product and you have two seemingly identical choices, yet one costs twice as much as the other, do you buy the expensive one? Boy, I sure don’t. I want to get the most for my money. I didn’t suggest cutting funding. Just getting the most from it. You call it heartless, I call it common sense.

  9. The city needs to do its job Your already paying taxes for clean streets and garbage pick up. Why are you paying again for something you already pay for?

    They are so concerned social issues that they forget about the basics