Program Description

Application Overview
Investment Tiers
Contracting Process
Program Requirements
Program Contacts

Please submit all final applications through the online platform. Paper copies will not be accepted. If you need help, please contact any OIS staff member. Contact information is at the bottom of this page.

*To begin the application, please create a new user account by clicking the "Login" button above and then clicking on "Click Here to create a new profile." Choose the profile type, “organization” in the account creation page.

Application Overview
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.

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:

1. Organization - Neighborhood organizations, residents, property owners and business owners collaborate and work together toward a common vision for the business district.

2. Marketing & Events - Local businesses are supported by marketing strategies and events that bring customers and emphasize a positive, consistent image of the district.

3. 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.

4. Placemaking - The physical environment of a commercial node is attractive, 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. 

5. 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 beginning implementation. The grants can be given to more than one organization but a lead agency needs to serves 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

Tier II 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.

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 all Tier III awardees and will occur on Fridays, January 25, February 8, and 22 from 8am to 12:30 pm.  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. 

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, 3:30 - 5:00 PM: Grant Information Session, Beacon Hill Library - Register here

• OIS staff are available for questions and support - see contact information below.  OIS staff will also be available in community locations. Check the schedule on our website.

• October 29, 2018, 5:00 pm: Application deadline

• November 5, 6, 7, 9, 2018: Presentations to Only in Seattle Review Committee. To select preferred dates/times for your district to present, please visit our Doodle Poll.

• December 2018: Notification of funding decision

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 when and if they become ready to move it forward. Infrastructure awards are often based on cost estimates and 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 identified 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 will 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.

Program Contacts
Theresa Barreras, Business Districts Manager

Heidi Hall, Business Districts Advocate

Mikel Davila, Business Districts Advocate