Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce executive director Sierra Hansen ditched her prepare presentation Monday night in favor of a more intimate rundown of how a new business improvement area would benefit neighborhood businesses and residents.
The chamber launched its Capitol Hill BIA campaign during last month’s State of the Hill celebration, and held an information session Monday night at The Summit.
Hansen was firm in her message that the neighborhood’s future economic vibrancy and livability will be dependent on community leadership, saying such advocacy won’t come from city leadership. Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been “MIA” on a vast range of issues, she said.
“It is really critical for us to change and evolve as a community,” Hansen said, “and a community reinvesting in ourselves.”
A Capitol Hill BIA will require the approval of property owners representing 60 percent of the assessed value of the area. Petitions went out in February to 650 property owners representing 850 parcels within the proposed BIA Boundary, which includes the current Broadway BIA and business corridors on 12th Avenue, 15th Avenue, 19th Avenue East, Melrose, Olive/Denny and Pike/Pine.
Much like the Broadway BIA, the new business improvement area would collect fees that would go toward programs and services that support the neighborhood’s economic climate and enhance commercial hubs by addressing trash, graffiti, business development, urban design, marketing, event planning and public safety. Cal Anderson and Miller parks would also benefit from increased activity programming.
The Capitol Hill BIA would be governed by a ratepayers advisory board, just as the Broadway BIA has since its formation in 1986. The assessment, however, would not be based on sometimes inaccurate sales revenue reporting, but a property assessment formula. The rate property owners would pay would be based 80 percent on lot square footage and 20 percent on total taxable value.
Phillip Sit, business improvement area advocate with the Seattle Office of Economic Development, told the Capitol Hill Times most BIAs in the city have moved away from sales revenue funding models.
The expectation is to have the Capitol Hill BIA formed sometime this summer.
“The council and the central staff are going to have their questions,” Sit said of the approval process, adding he recently reviewed the BIA petition with central staff, which are assigned to support city councilmembers’ work.
Subareas within the Capitol Hill BIA would pay varying lot square footage rates with corresponding services. For example, ratepayers in the Olive/Denny and 15th and 19th avenues east subareas would pay 12 cents per square foot, and receive twice weekly cleaning services.
Pike/Pine and Melrose Subarea ratepayers would pay the most per lot square foot at 30 cents, but services would be different. Pike/Pine would receive cleaning services seven days a week, plus hot-spot policing. Melrose would receiving cleaning services three times a week, plus marketing support. Additional services proposed for each subarea can be found at capitolhill2020.org.
Hansen said Pioneer Square had once struggled with filling space, but 25 years ago formed what is now the oldest BIA in Seattle. Through a restaurant and retail recruitment campaign, the BIA brought in 200 new business within four years, she said.
Hunters Capital CEO Michael Malone, who announced the Capitol Hill BIA campaign during the Feb. 8 State of the Hill, said business improvement areas are successful when the community is engaged in the process.
“The future is going to be how the community gets involved, stays involved,” he said.
With its property holdings in Capitol Hill, Malone said last month that Hunters Capital’s contribution to the BIA will be more than $40,000 a year. The BIA is anticipated to raise $1.6 million annually.
While the BIA funds come from commercial and multi-family properties within a defined area, some residents may be affected if there are four or more units on their property.
Chamber board member Don Blakeney said he’s one of those rare property owners living in a commercial zone with enough units to qualify for BIA dues, and he expects to pay around $400 annually. Rather than seek a rezone, Blakeney said he plans to lift his house and open a restaurant and bar under it.
Two more BIA informational sessions are planned at The Summit, 420 E. Pike St. The next session is noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 29, and then 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 23.