Any way you look at it, 2016 was a crazy year. Capitol Hill started the year strong. We welcomed the long-awaited First Hill Streetcar and Capitol Hill light rail service, community members got their first glance of pivotal projects, such as Gerding Edlen’s future development at the light rail station, Cal Anderson got new cork turf and Pokémon Go, and we welcomed dozens of new businesses. As the year comes to a close, thousands of people have and will continue to gather at Cal Anderson and Volunteer Parks to reaffirm our progressive values as a new president-elect prepares to take office in 2017.
Nov. 9, the day after the election, was my one-year anniversary as executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. I woke up to a new reality and a great sense of trepidation about how the future administration would impact my home, my community, my country and my planet. I started to let my fear paralyze me, until I remembered the best response to intimidation is strength, courage and compassion. Seattleites are all of these things, and more. Mayor Murray exemplified these values with a statement that inspired all of us to be kind and generous with our neighbors and welcomed those who were fearful of an oppressive future. I admit I had tears in my eyes as I watched his comments, and I reread them a few times over the past month.
Then I started to review the chamber’s goals and accomplishments in 2016 and realized there is much to celebrate as the year comes to a close. Our 200 members reflect the neighborhood — they are a strong, diverse, progressive and engaged group of businesses, nonprofits, major institutions, property owners and residents. Here are a few of this year’s highlights:
Hosted nine networking membership events throughout the neighborhood
Welcomed 21 new members
Hosted more than 125 chamber and community members at the 2016 State of the Hill and presented a Jerry Everard, a nightlife champion, with the Spirit Award
Partnered with PrideFest on Clean Sweep, the annual neighborhood Pride Month Kick-off event and clean-up with more than 300 volunteers
Welcomed more than 2,000 people at Hilloween’s indoor carnival
Expanded the Hilloween Trick or Treat area to include Pike/Pine and Broadway area businesses
Promoted 1st Security Bank’s Haunted Laboratory
Added an adult-friendly evening Zombie-fied Crawl to highlight 23 establishments throughout the neighborhood
Promoted Capitol Hill Chamber members and neighborhood businesses through more than 1,000 tweets and Facebook posts
Kept 2,500 community members updated via monthly chamber emails and special bulletins
Partnered with the Capitol Hill Community Council, Capitol Hill Housing and Champion on a range of events and activities
Worked closely with law enforcement, nightlife representatives and property owners to find timely, coordinated solutions on a range of issues
Engaged members on a range of policy issues with city leadership
Created and grew a coalition of social service, faith-based and public agencies to help folks experiencing homelessness, mental illness or substance abuse issues
For the past decade, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce has contracted with the historic Broadway Business Improvement Area to develop and implement a work plan to address street-level cleaning, beautification and public safety issues in support of businesses (ratepayers) on Broadway Avenue.
In 2016 we circulated a survey to ratepayers, conducted a comprehensive ratepayer audit, launched a monthly email newsletter for ratepayers, included quarterly updates with assessments, and conducted monthly walks with our cleaning vendor. Thanks to the new rail lines and a strong local economy, we had found ourselves with $20,000 in surplus revenue. We gathered feedback from businesses and property owners on how to spend the money to promote and beautify Broadway during the holiday season, and the overwhelming response was “LIGHTS!”
We hired a new vendor who spent the second weekend in November wrapping 70 trees with festive white lights, and the transformation was remarkable. The Monday after the lights went up I was astounded and transfixed by the transformation. We partnered with local businesses to install holiday decorations and we are hosting free Santa pictures at Homestreet Bank noon to 4 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 17, and Sunday, Dec. 18.
As 2016 comes to a close, Capitol Hill continues to be a strong, diverse, amazing neighborhood with an incredible range of daytime and nighttime businesses to explore and support. 2017 is sure to bring challenges, and we must work together to address them with the values that make us a strong and compassionate neighborhood.