Only in Seattle Grants

Only in Seattle Initiative

The Office of Economic Development's Only in Seattle Initiative strives to build an equitable and vibrant city by fostering neighborhood business districts that are centers of local commerce, community, and culture. With seed funding and expertise, the Initiative supports local businesses, building owners, and residents to unite around a common vision for their district and work together to achieve it. From business coaching, community festivals, and litter cleanup, to murals, outreach and real estate development, Seattle's business districts have used Only in Seattle to tackle tough issues, attract new investment and care for their communities.   


Learn about the Only in Seattle Initiative and Explore Business District Wins (coming soon) for highlights of the Initiative at work in Seattle's business districts.



Only in Seattle Request for Application (RFA)

The 2019 RFA is now closed. Please sign up for the Only in Seattle newsletter and subscribe to the Bottom Line blog for information on the next funding round, opening Fall 2019. Please see the information below for details on the past 2019 Only in Seattle RFA.

The Only in Seattle Initiative is a partnership between OED, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON). Approximately $1,400,000 is available (contingent upon federal and City funding allocations) for district grants and services that accomplish goals in the five strategy areas. Please sign up for the Only in Seattle newsletter to get the latest information and contact us if you have any further questions or want to apply for the upcoming funding round.

The RFA is available on September 17, 2018 at 9 am. Applications are due on Monday, October 29, 2018 at 5:00 pm PST via the grant system (link below). Late applications and paper copies will not be accepted.

Follow these steps to complete your application.

  1. Review the

    Only in Seattle Initiative Program Description

    If you are new to the Only in Seattle Initiative or want to learn about the new elements in this year’s RFA, read the Program Description. It will make the application process much easier.

  2. Download a copy of the full Only in Seattle Initiative grant application

    Download the PDF version or Word version of the application to review it as a whole and begin drafting your responses. We recommend filling out your application in Word first, so you can save as you go. Please note, these documents are provided only for review and preparation purposes - all applications must be submitted through our online database (link below).

  3. Access Application Templates and Example Action Plans

    Download and attach the Budget Template and Key Outcomes Template needed for the Tier I application. The online application will indicate where to upload these documents at the appropriate section.

  4. Start your application

    To begin your application, log into your existing account or create a new user. Choose the profile type, "Organization" in the account creation page.

  5. Select Preferred Presentations Dates

    Visit the Doodle Poll to select preferred dates/times for your district to present to the Only in Seattle Review Committee.

  6. Read the FAQs and Helpful Tips

    While we're always a phone call or email away to help you with your questions, many answers can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and GoGrants Helpful Tips sections to assist you in your grant application.

Are you considering applying and have questions? Having trouble creating an account? Contact the Only in Seattle team to get help.

Contact Us

Theresa Barreras
Business Districts
Heidi Hall
Business Districts
Peter Bloch Garcia
Business Districts
Phillip Sit
Business Improvement Area
Ken Takahashi
Development Finance Advisor




Only in Seattle Initiative 2019 Program Description


The Only in Seattle Initiative is a partnership between OED, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON). Approximately $1,400,000 is available (contingent upon federal and City funding allocations) for district grants and services that accomplish goals in the five strategy areas:


  • Organization - Neighborhood organizations, residents, property owners and business owners collaborate and work together toward a common vision for the business district.
  • Marketing & Events - Local businesses are supported by marketing strategies and events that bring customers and emphasize a positive, consistent image of the district.
  • Business Development - Businesses prosper because they are organized, supported by the community and they receive the assistance they need to strengthen and grow their business. New businesses move into the district that complement and improve the business mix.
  • Placemaking - The physical environment of a commercial node is inviting and easily accessible by multiple modes of transportation. Real estate development involves community input and vision. Public spaces are maximized to enhance vibrancy and promote social interaction.
  • Clean & Safe - The district is clean, and customers, employees, and visitors feel safe and welcome.


Investment Tiers

This initiative provides seed funding and support that can help a business district move ahead of its current state to a new level of organization and operations. Participating districts develop a strategic vision of where they want to be, an action plan to achieve that vision, and clear outcomes that are intended from the work. Districts can apply for any of the following tiers for which they qualify. However, priority for Tiers II - V is given to districts that have or are developing action plans.  

Tier I: Action Plan Grants. These grants fall into three categories, based on the district's work: 


  • Organizing - For districts working on organizing (or reorganizing) stakeholders in the district to develop a shared vision and create a new action plan. Grants are generally for consultants and/or staff to conduct outreach, facilitate planning meetings, develop a plan and complete early projects that build momentum.
  • Transforming - For districts with a new action plan that they are beginning to implement. The grants can be given to more than one organization but a lead agency needs to serve as the central hub for the vision and action plan and coordinate implementation and communication with and between all participating parties. Grants can cover staff, project costs, consulting, etc.
  • Established - For districts with an established action plan and ongoing implementation that have a key project that will help grow the district's work. Grants can cover staff, project costs, consulting, etc.

Tier II: Business Improvement Areas Consultation 

Business Improvement Area Consulting Support - is intended for commercial districts that are seeking assistance in forming a Business Improvement Area (BIA), modifying an existing BIA's boundaries or rate payment structure, exploring the feasibility of a BIA, or BIAs interested in support to strengthen or improve operations. Districts receive consulting services to guide them through the steps from feasibility analysis and community engagement to the legislative process. Watch the "What are BIAs" short video for more information on BIAs.  

Tier III: Racial Equity in Business Districts 

In this tier, you can apply to receive training and support to better serve under-represented businesses and business of color in your district. This includes participating in a training cohort with other districts and access to the Department of Neighborhood's Community Liaison program. The program hires liaisons who share language, culture, ethnicity, or other demographics with local business owners to provide a bridge of communication and understanding between the businesses and the local organization. These liaisons can do outreach, conduct surveys, help facilitate focus groups, etc. in close partnership with the local organization.


The Racial Equity and Inclusion in Business Districts Training is mandatory for Tier III awardees and will occur on Fridays, January 25, February 8, and 22 from 8am to-12:30pm (schedule subject to change). Each awarded organization is expected to be represented by at least two individuals who are either staff, volunteers, board members, or stakeholders.  

Tier IV: Commercial Affordability Workshops 

Seattle is experiencing unprecedented growth that has created significant wealth and prosperity while also causing higher property values, taxes and rents. Many small businesses are grappling with pressures to relocate and rising rents that challenge their ability to grow and remain competitive. The Commercial Affordability workshops are designed to help support small businesses as they evaluate their options and learn about resources available. The following examples were held during a pilot in Chinatown-ID:


  • Qualifying for a Commercial Lease
  • Commercial Design Workshop
  • 1-on-1 Design Clinic
  • Financing Workshop
  • Commercial Lease Workshop
  • 1-on-1 Commercial Lease Clinic  

Tier V: City Infrastructure/Public Space Improvements 

OED has $370,000 available for projects that enhance public spaces within business districts. Eligible neighborhood business districts include those that have one or more of the following attributes: paid on-street parking; a majority of low-moderate income residents; and/or significant impacts from construction. Tier V projects include design, cost estimating, construction and/or activation of improvements and amenities in parks and public right of way. Projects are often completed directly by the Seattle Department of Transportation but can also result in a grant to the business district to hire consultants and contractors.  


Application Timeline

  • September 17, 2018, 9:00 am: Request for Applications and Program Description released
  • September 26, 2018, 3:30 - 5:00 pm: Information Session, Register today!
  • September 17 - October 29: OIS staff are available for questions and support. Contact our team to schedule an appointment in your community today!
  • October 29, 2018, 5:00 pm: Application deadline
  • November 5, 6, 7, 9, 2018: Presentations to Only in Seattle Review Committee. Visit the Doodle Poll to select preferred dates/times for your district to present.
  • December 2018: Notification of funding decisions


Protest Procedures

In the event that an unsuccessful respondent wishes to protest the decision, they must do so by submitting in writing the reason for the protest to the Director of the Office of Economic Development. Any such protest must be received within three (3) business days of receipt of notification of decision. The Director shall consider all the facts available and issue a decision within five (5) business days after receipt of the request for rehearing, unless additional time is necessary, in which case, the affected respondent will be notified of the delay. The decision of the Director will be final and conclusive. A request for reconsideration will be denied. Questions about these Protest Procedures should contact Theresa Barreras: or (206) 684-4505

Contracting Process

Grantees selected through this application process will receive a one-year investment commitment for 2019, with the opportunity to apply again each year. Each year the investments are contingent upon the availability of funds for this program and the grantee's satisfactory progress on activities during the previous year(s).

Infrastructure projects can span over multiple years, especially for larger projects. These can be carried forward as long as the project is making progress. Infrastructure awards that are not contracted or acted upon by the awardee within the year granted may be forfeit at OED's discretion. The awardee can reapply for the project at the next funding round when and if they become ready to move it forward. Infrastructure awards are often based on cost estimates; if actual project costs are lower than estimated, the unused funds will be maintained by OED. 2019 contracts need to be completed and signed before work is eligible for reimbursement. Contracts can be developed immediately after investment notifications in December. Contracts can no longer be back-dated. The contract will include specific activities, milestones and a budget based on an action plan that is accepted by OED and the district.


Program Requirements

Target Area - Business districts need clearly defined geographic boundaries that will be the focus of the work.

Coordination - If multiple organizations are working together, there must be a clear plan for coordination, with one organization or individual identified as the lead for overseeing the implementation of the action plan.


Strong Stakeholder Participation - While the activities are overseen by a local lead organization or individual, no one agency can do everything. Public agencies, nonprofit organizations, area residents, businesses and property owners must share investments in and responsibility for strengthening their neighborhoods. Action Plans must be developed with the input and involvement of key stakeholders and each component of the plan must identify the organizations, staff or volunteers to take responsibility for ensuring implementation.


Impact and Long-Term Sustainability - The Action Plans should be focused on making an immediate impact in the district and developing infrastructure that will allow the work to be sustainable over time.


Investment - OED will make an investment of grant dollars, technical assistance, training resources and staff time in each participating business district. The grant funding can reimburse operating and direct costs incurred by the lead agencies and other agencies submitting joint proposals. This can include staff costs, supplies, marketing, etc. Funding can also be used for physical improvement projects such as business district beautification.


One Proposal per Business District - As mentioned above, efforts in the district should be coordinated among community stakeholders. Therefore, we only want to receive one application from each commercial district. If we receive multiple applications from different groups in a district that are either unaware of each other's work or are competing for the grant, we will require that the groups work together to develop shared priorities. The application can include funding for multiple agencies and the lead agency or individual will be responsible for coordinating the work of organizations involved.


Federal Funding Requirements - A majority of funding for this program is federal - Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). Business districts receiving federal funds need to be located in primarily residential (as opposed to primarily industrial) areas with over 51% of low-moderate income residents served by the district. Business districts that do not meet this requirement can still be eligible to receive City General Funds. Business districts within the following neighborhoods potentially qualify for the federal funding: Central Area, Rainier Valley, Chinatown International District, Little Saigon, White Center, South Park, Pioneer Square, Delridge, University District and Lake City. Federal funding eligibility will need to be determined for each proposal.


Reporting Requirements - Business districts are required to keep track of outcomes in their contract, including a list of businesses receiving direct support. All reporting requirements will be included in the contract.


Code of Conduct - The Office of Economic Development's Only in Seattle Initiative is committed to providing a friendly, safe and welcoming environment for all, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ability, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and religion (or lack thereof). Participants in Only in Seattle Initiative include City of Seattle staff, neighborhood and business organization staff, volunteers, board and committee members, businesses, residents and property owners involved in action planning and implementation of Only in Seattle action plans and projects. We invite all those who participate in Only in Seattle to help us create safe and positive experiences for everyone.


Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions for the Only in Seattle Initiative.