Broadway action plan unveiled

While it may be cliché to say so, the enthusiasm was palpable. But when between 70 and 80 people show up for a public forum to consider what steps might be taken to improve Broadway's future, as was the case on June 20 at Seattle Central Community College, it certainly counts as a very good sign. Given that the evening was one of the nicest of the year the turnout was especially impressive.

The forum was a chance for a group of Capitol Hill stakeholders to present the fruits of several months of effort. Working with the city's Office of Economic Development (OED), the Broadway Economic Vitality Action Team created a draft agenda of proposed actions that can and should be taken to strengthen Broadway's, and Capitol Hill's, economic health.

The document was prepared in anticipation of the first installment of the $500,000 in mitigation funding offered by Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck last summer. That funding was offered following the City Council's decision to increase the allowable building heights on Broadway from 40 to 65 feet. Earlier this spring the council choose to fund $125,000 first, with the reminder targeted for the future based, presumably, on the successful implementation of the first wave of funding.

Michael Wells, who owns Bailey-Coy Books and served as a co-chair of the team, said he was glad to have something tangible to show the public.

"After many meetings, many hours talking, this is about ways we can make Broadway as vital and livable as it can be," he said.

"I grew up on the Hill. It's a great place and we want to make it better," added co-chair Chip Ragen.

Brief overview

The plan, presented on large boards, lists five major goals and provides considerable detail regarding what is required for success, how it might be achieved as well as community responsibilities and tasks the city needs to undertake. The goals:

1) Form a Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce

The Hill has been without a chamber since the previous organization folded in November 2004. One of the reasons it shut down was a lack of a paid, full-time administrator; the plan addresses that need early on. The chamber would be tasked with marketing and promotion, collaboration among other community organizations and interacting with the city.

2) Promote and market Broadway as a unique and interesting business district

A key element here is developing a much-sought after Broadway marketing plan. Other elements include address parking issues, managing vacant storefronts and managing the impacts of future Sound Transit light-rail construction on Broadway.

3) Upgrade and maintain Broadway's appearance

Graffiti removal was noted, as was improving the signage on Broadway and improving the Broadway and Capitol Hill bus shelters.

4) Enhance the district's safety and security

A major concern for many years, the plan advocates for an increased police presence on Broadway, better communication with the Police Department's East Precinct and creating an ambassador program which could be modeled after a similar program downtown.

5) Plan and design improvements for a vital, livable neighborhood business district

With a light-rail station slated for Broadway, an opportunity exists to develop positive designs and encourage healthy redevelopment. The plan directs the community to work with the city and Sound Transit to make sure "the business district's needs for an economically vital development at the Broadway Station are understood and acted upon."

Those in attendance were asked to place stickers on the specific items that they felt required the most attention. Perhaps not surprisingly, issues relating to public safety and a greater police presence garnered the greatest response. Many people also provided written comments. Creating a chamber of commerce received a high level of support as well.

The team is now in the process of examining and incorporating the feedback. The group will meet a few more times to prioritize strategies and possibly come up with a few specific items that can be achieved quickly. The finalized plan, including a timeline, will be presented to the mayor and the City Council in mid-July. Assuming the city approves the plan, as is likely, the funding could be released later this summer.

OED's Lisa Stewart, a senior development specialist who's been working on the project, appreciated the large crowd and thought there was a sense of general agreement over the plan.

"The fact that people thought that the areas the group had identified were spot on suggests that people seem to be on the same page," she said.

For both the near and certainly long term, maintaining the level of enthusiasm that produced the plan is an important element for its future success.

"The tricky part is keeping the momentum going and making sure that this work happens," said Karin Zaugg Black, OED's communication director. "We were excited by the number of people at the forum. There was a great mix of people, not just from Broadway but from Pike-Pine, the 15th Avenue district. People are really engaged and that's a great sign."

Given the major effort that has gone into the plan to this point, such continued enthusiasm appears likely.

Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at or 461-1308.

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