Frequently Asked Questions


  1. Are OIS staff available to review applications before we submit them or answer our questions?

  2. Where can I find demographic data about my district?

  3. The application mentions that Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds are restricted to low-income neighborhoods. How do you determine which neighborhoods are eligible and if I am not in a low-income neighborhood, can I apply for funding?

  4. How do I decide what tier to apply for? Will it reflect poorly on us, or will we be disqualified if we apply for the wrong tier?

  5. Where can I get funding for an individual project or event in my district?

  6. How do you determine what is a neighborhood business district?

  7. If my district is in the program this year, do we need to submit a proposal each year?

  8. If we are interested in BIA Support (Tier II) and City Infrastructure grants (Tier VI), should we submit separate requests or just one application?

  9. Our community has created a vision/neighborhood plan/or other such planning process. This vision/plan is still relevant to our business district. Can we use this as our “Strategic Vision” or do we need to create a new one? Alternately, our business association/chamber has a mission statement. Is that an acceptable “Strategic Vision?”

  10. 1. Q - Are OIS staff available to review applications before we submit them or answer our questions?

    A - Yes – feel free to contact us (see contact info below)! We can provide guidance and feedback on your application and answer other questions. We will do our best to help you. Keep in mind that we may not always be available, especially at the last minute.

    Theresa Barreras, Business Districts Manager
    theresa.barreras@seattle.gov
    206.684.4505

    Heidi Hall, Business Districts Advocate
    heidi.hall@seattle.gov
    206.733.9967

    Mikel Davila, Business Districts Advocate
    mikel.davila@seattle.gov
    206.386.9748

    2. Q - Where can I find demographic data about my district?

    A – Several data resources are listed on the Only in Seattle pages of the OED website under Tools for Business Districts, Data Resources: http://www.seattle.gov/economicdevelopment/OISI/tools.htm#data

    Policy Map, listed on the page, is a free and easy to use resource for a quick snapshot of demographic data.

    A – Urban Village growth data available on the City's Office of Planning and Development website. Look at the Urban Center/Village data and Neighborhoods section: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cityplanning/populationdemographics/aboutseattle/neighborhoods/default.htm



    3. Q - The application mentions that Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds are restricted to low-income neighborhoods. How do you determine which neighborhoods are eligible and if I am not in a low-income neighborhood, can I apply for funding?

    A - In general, CDBG funds need to be used in neighborhoods that are “primarily residential” and where at least 51% of people served are low or moderate income, based on federal income guidelines. However, there are many other eligibility options and requirements and every district must be reviewed individually to determine if and how CDBG funds can be used. CDBG funds are a large portion of the funds available but not the only fund source. There are also city general funds that have different requirements and can be used in neighborhoods that are not low-moderate income. If you think OIS is a good fit for your district, please consider submitting a proposal. It is our job to figure out how to use the funding to serve the top proposals.



    4. Q - How do I decide what tier to apply for? Will it reflect poorly on us, or will we be disqualified if we apply for the wrong tier?

    A - You will not be disqualified for applying for the “wrong” tier. Last year, many districts received funding or services within a different tier than the one for which they applied. Feel free to email or call us to help you determine which tier is the best fit, which can save you time preparing your application.



    5. Q - Where can I get funding for an individual project or event in my district?

    A – The OIS Initiative replaced OED’s former Neighborhood Business District granting process, which funded more individual projects. We no longer provide grants to business districts outside of the OIS grant process. If your project fits into any of the individual granting tiers, you can apply for it there. For example, if you meet the definition of an “established” district, you can apply for a single project, event, or other one-time cost under Tier I if it would help your district reach a higher level of operations. If you qualify for Tier VI City Infrastructure and your project fits into this tier, you can apply that. Districts that are working on comprehensive action plans generally have priority but many districts have received one-time project funding under a particular tier.

    The Department of Neighborhoods continues to provide its Neighborhood Matching Fund grants, the Office of Arts and Culture has granting programs, and there are other opportunities from the city as well, depending on your project. This new website has a summary of many granting sources at the city. http://www.seattle.gov/grants/



    6. Q - How do you determine what is a neighborhood business district?

    A – A neighborhood business district should have a mixture of residents, businesses and others using the district such as employees or shoppers. In your proposal, you tell us about your business district – the geographic boundaries, the businesses, the people served, etc. The city has also created a few different ways of classifying neighborhoods districts such as the designated Urban Villages, neighborhood commercial zoning, etc. We look at all of the information as well as our own knowledge of the area.



    7. Q - If my district was in the program this year, do we need to submit a proposal each year?

    A – Yes. Granting remains competitive each year and all districts must submit a proposal to be in the program. For districts that received grants last year, there are a few differences in the information requested. The proposal instructions specify the different information requested for current and new grantees.



    8. Q – If we are interested in BIA Support (Tier II) and City Infrastructure grants (Tier VI), should we submit separate requests or just one application

    A –One application should be submitted for the entire district. The online system requires you to submit under each tier separately, but each application should come from one applicant representing the entire district.



    9. Q – Our community has created a vision/neighborhood plan/or other such planning process. This vision/plan is still relevant to our business district. Can we use this as our “Strategic Vision” or do we need to create a new one? Alternately, our business association/chamber has a mission statement. Is that an acceptable “Strategic Vision?”

    A – The Strategic Vision should be broadly shared, compelling and build on your district’s individual strengths. If there was a community process to develop a vision that continues to feel relevant to your stakeholders, that is probably a broadly shared vision. If you have reached out to all major stakeholders in the district and have agreed on the vision, this can also demonstrate that it is broadly shared. The “Strategic” part of the vision is intended to make it specific to your district and be directly driving the strategies in your plan. The following example shows how the vision ties to specific strategies and planning processes. It is not very specific to the neighborhood, however. The XYZ business district has a two-fold vision:

    First, we envision the business district as a pleasant and convenient one-stop shopping location for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. To this end, we recruit businesses that round out the district’s offerings, we promote sufficient density of businesses and residents to provide a “critical mass”, and we seek to promote shopping locally.

    Secondly, we envision XYZ as a region-wide destination for dining, entertainment and the arts. To this end, we promote our district regionally and try to make it as hospitable as possible for visitors.

    This vision statement was developed at a day-long, facilitated assessment and visioning session in May 2003. The session was attended by a mix of business owners, property owners, and neighborhood activists. It is consistent with the 1999 Neighborhood Plan vision for the XYZ residential urban village as a vibrant, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented community that maintains its historic small-town scale. The business district vision has stood the test of time remarkably well, and it has provided important direction to the Business Association as well as to individual businesses and property owners.

    Here is another example: ABC’s vision is to support an economically vibrant, sustainable, and culturally diverse ABC Business District. Our goal is to support equitable development of the ABC area, to preserve diversity and affordability and create economic opportunities for businesses and residents in this changing area. Our vision is a holistic, long-term plan that includes organizing businesses and residents, developing the capacity and political capital of local businesses, creating economic development opportunities, and developing affordable commercial and residential projects within this neighborhood business district.

    This vision grew out of several community/stakeholder processes over the last decade or more including the Neighborhood Planning process conducted by the City in 1999, the Action Agenda of 2005, and through a number of stakeholder meetings ABC conducted three years ago with business and community leaders in the area. Most recently, the City’s 2009 Neighborhood Plan Update process reconfirmed that this vision is supported by the larger community. This vision is articulated at community planning and visioning processes and the BA posts it on their website, brochures and other promotional materials.