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How to Use This Guide
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Create a Thriving Business District


University Districts Rebuilding the Ave Project

A Business Improvement Area (BIA) provides a mechanism for businesses, property owners or a combination to collectively obtain the improvements they want to see in their district. There are currently 6 BIA districts in the city, each with a unique set of goals and programs:

  • Broadway
  • Metropolitan Improvement District
  • Chinatown International District
  • Pioneer Square
  • West Seattle Junction
  • University District

The BIA funds can be used for parking, joint marketing, cleanup and maintenance, security, special events, beautification and management and administration.

BIA assessments can be calculated based on square footage, assessed land value and/or B & O taxable revenue. The assessments are collected by the City and disbursed to the BIA, which is responsible for the financial management of the funds. The BIA is overseen by a ratepayer’s board, which is responsible for developing the program and budget. You may use Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) monies to plan for a potential BIA. Once the BIA is established, BIA assessments can be used as a match for NMF applications.

The process of getting a BIA: you must have a petition signed by potential ratepayers representing 60% of the assessable value in the district. For example, if B & O revenue will be used for the BIA assessments, businesses that comprise 60% of all revenues generated in the district would need to sign the petition. The petition is then submitted to the Department of Executive Administration and approved by City Council.

The Office of Economic Development Can Help
The Office of Economic Development (OED) assists business areas interested in initiating a BIA and serves as a liaison to help address and resolve issues involving the City. OED will provide a staff person to attend BIA meetings as necessary, assist with planning, contracting and technical advice, hold quarterly meetings or other forums for BIA staff or representatives to attend and discuss issues of concern to their locality.

Frequently asked questions:

If a potential ratepayer doesn’t support the BIA, does he/she have to pay the assessments?

If 60% of the area's ratepayers have signed the petition and City Council approves, all ratepayers must pay the assessments.

If businesses are paying the assessments, what happens when a storefront is vacant?

If the assessment formula is based on business B&O taxable revenue only, the vacant storefront would not be assessed because there is no business. However, t he formula can be set up so that property owners pay fees for vacant space.

Can businesses be excluded from paying assessments?

Yes. For example, most BIA districts specify exemptions for charitable organizations and temporary uses.

Benefits and challenges of BIAs:
University Districts Rebuilding the Ave Project


  • Offers flexibility: the program is controlled by businesses and/or property owners and can be modified to meet each district’s specific needs.
  • Allows for new services or higher service levels than those provided by the City.
  • Increases equity: assessments are collected from every business and/or property owner included in the area, unlike membership organizations.


  • Requires a time commitment. The petitioning process requires a dedicated group able to research the data collection necessary and contact every business in the proposed BIA boundaries.
  • Has some limitations. Assessments are based on a set formula; therefore, funds available to the BIA are dependent on the factors influencing this formula such as changes in property values, fluctuations in business revenues, total square footage, etc.




  • Department of Executive Administration
    Teri Allen-------------------------------------------------------------- 206-684-5226