Seattle Business District's Accomplishments

From business advocacy to neighborhood beautification, find out what Seattle's business districts and BIAs have achieved with the support of Only in Seattle grant funding.  

First Hill - Pavement to Parks and I5 Column Beautification

Seattle's First Hill neighborhood is perhaps best known for its hospitals, and less as a residential or business community. Just east of downtown, First Hill is an urban neighborhood with very few places for the community to gather outdoors. The First Hill Improvement Association (FHIA), founded in the 1950s, recently came together with renewed energy to transform the neighborhood and build community. With Only in Seattle support, FHIA developed a vision and action plan and strengthened their organization, which helped them access support from several other City of Seattle departments.

One critical part of FHIA's vision is improving and expanding the neighborhood's open spaces. Thanks to FHIA's collaboration with the City, Seattle's first "Pavement to Parks" project opened in First Hill at the intersection of University, Union and Boylston, and at Ninth Avenue and University in 2015. This previously underutilized street space was transformed into a public asset where FHIA hosted events throughout the summer, providing a welcoming space for residents to gather.

FHIA also used OIS grant money to transform 72 columns under Interstate 5 between James Street and Cherry Street into a public art installation. "Sunset Over First Hill," designed by local artist Nathan Watkins and installed by non-profit Urban Artworks, makes this important gateway into First Hill vibrant and welcoming for residents and visitors.

FHIA continues to work with OIS to make their neighborhood vision a reality through funding for safety improvements and community building. From sidewalk and public space improvements to movie nights, tree walks, free libraries and a petting zoo, FHIA is creatively infusing new life in their urban landscape.


Ballard - A transition from a Chamber to an Improvement District

In 2011, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce approached the Office of Economic Development (OED) with a dilemma. After serving Ballard for 84 years, the organization was struggling to remain relevant and provide the services needed to respond to recent growth. The Chamber recognized that it needed to examine its role in the community and assess the pathway forward.

The Chamber was awarded OED's Only in Seattle (OIS) grant for a strategic visioning effort to examine its strengths and weaknesses. Chamber leaders spoke with community and business members and recognized that for Ballard to embrace its rapid growth, they needed to convene conversations with Ballard's diverse stakeholders. This initial effort resulted in the Chamber launching a larger community planning initiative that was funded through an OIS organizing grant.

Dubbed the Ballard Partnership for Smart Growth (BPSG), the Chamber led the effort and secured participation from key stakeholders including businesses, property owners, residents and social service providers. The BPSG realized that to accomplish the priorities in the vision and strategic plan, there needed to be a long-term, sustainably funded leadership organization that included both commercial and residential interests. Only in Seattle invested in the project by providing a grant to help the Chamber get started on the path towards a self-funded Business Improvement Area (BIA).

While the Chamber had a strong base of support, it also experienced initial skepticism from some potential ratepayers in the district. They listened to residents, business and property owners to adapt the proposal - spending an additional 12 months to incorporate feedback and finalize the proposed BIA service area. The hard work and strategic outreach paid off, as the City passed their BIA with no modifications and minimal opposition in 2016.

Rebranded as the Ballard Alliance, today the organization keeps sidewalks clean, supports mental health outreach services, programs events in parks and conducts marketing campaigns to support local businesses. They host forums for community discussions and work with local police on safety enhancements. The Alliance also created a co-brand - Visit Ballard - which is its centerpiece marketing initiative that helps market Ballard businesses to visitors from the region and throughout the country.

The Alliance continues the original chamber traditions as well, with membership lunches and the iconic Ballard SeafoodFest. Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated volunteers, city staff support and sustained funding, the new Ballard Alliance can help the neighborhood thrive and grow for years to come. 

Keeping Businesses in Little Saigon

Lang and Quyen Pham are the husband and wife team that own Bich Kieu Quyen Jewelry in Little Saigon. He is a fourth generation jeweler and the business specializes in custom jewelry and jewelry repair. Their business has been operating in Seattle for over 25 years, and was originally located on Jackson Street, near 12th in the heart of Little Saigon.

In November 2016, the business's lease on their Jackson Street location was expiring, and they got an email from the property owner giving them one month to vacate the space. The business owners did not have anything in their lease giving them an option to renew or right of first refusal, often a key lease term.  

Starting early summer 2016, a bilingual community liaison was conducting outreach to Vietnamese business owners in Little Saigon through a partnership with the Office of Economic Development (OED) and Department of Neighborhoods (DON). The goal of the program is to build relationships with business owners and address issues the businesses might be facing. The outreach work was being done in coordination with Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation Development Authority (SCIDPDA).  

Through her outreach, the community liaison built a relationship with the owners of Bich Kieu Quyen Jewelry and encouraged them to attend a Mobile Business Consulting event organized by OED in partnership with SCIDPDA. The purpose of Mobile Business Consulting is to work with community partners to bring business support services directly to neighborhoods to make them more accessible and tailor them to meet business needs. Quyen met with the small business consultant and shared their situation and fear of potentially losing their business. Through the MBC, the lease issue was documented and the business development manager at SCIDPDA was able to follow up with the owner and connect them with someone in the neighborhood who could provide legal advice. While they determined there was not a legal claim, he was able to negotiate another month (through the end of January) to have more time to relocate the business.  

The jewelry store owners found a building for sale at the corner of King and Rainier and were able to purchase the property. The store is now located on the second floor facing Rainier Avenue, so they have greater visibility and are getting more foot traffic. While there are still many challenges facing small businesses in Little Saigon, Bich Kieu Quyen Jewelry is happy they were able to stay in the neighborhood.

Economic Development

Markham McIntyre, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 5752, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94708, Seattle, WA, 98124-4708
Phone: (206) 684-8090
Phone Alt: (206) 684-0379
Fax: (206) 684-0379

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The mission of the Office of Economic Development (OED) is to help create healthy businesses, thriving neighborhoods, and community organizations to contribute to a robust economy that will benefit all Seattle residents and future generations.