Pelletier
Pelletier

Following the November general election, campaigning for a new business improvement area in Capitol Hill is expected to ramp up.

The Broadway BIA has been around since 1986, and primarily functions to cover cleanup needs and some business promotion. A new Capitol Hill BIA being vetted by property owners would add new services and fund a full staff and executive director.

“The plan has always been that a new Capitol Hill BIA would evolve and supplant the chamber of commerce at some point,” said Jeff Pelletier, chair for the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and principal at architecture firm Board & Vellum, “kind of do what the chamber is doing, but much more.”

Chamber executive director Sierra Hansen left her position on Oct. 31, but is staying on to manage the Broadway BIA under a six-month contract to start.

Pelletier said Hansen did a wonderful job as chamber director for the past two years, and expects her to keep up the good work with the Broadway BIA.

“We can’t say enough awesome stuff about what she’s done on that front,” he said.

Hansen announced the Capitol Hill BIA campaign launch during the State of the Hill celebration in February.

Unlike the Broadway BIA, which the chamber has managed since 2008, the new business improvement area would be funded through an assessment based on property. The Broadway BIA is funded by businesses based on sales revenue reporting, which Pelletier said is a less transparent method. Auditing has helped find new businesses and remove closed ones in the past for collection purposes.

The Broadway BIA would be disbanded if a neighborhood-wide BIA is formed, with that segment of Capitol Hill being incorporated into a new area that includes Denny/Olive, Melrose, Pike/Pine, Miller and 12th, 15th and 19th avenues.

Each neighborhood would receive different assessments and levels of service, Pelletier said. People in the Melrose subarea are more concerned about marketing businesses — particularly when construction begins on the Washington State Convention Center Addition — than with cleanliness issues being faced in the Pike/Pine corridor, Pelletier said.

A Capitol Hill BIA would address trash and graffiti like the Broadway BIA, and also increased event planning and marketing, he said, which includes finding local businesses to fill empty storefronts.

Seattle Central College and developer Hunters Capital were early supporters of the new BIA. Petitions were sent in February to 650 property owners representing 850 parcels within the proposed BIA.

“They’ve not all come back. We’re making progress,” Pelletier said. “The issue is we need 60 percent of property owners to sign the petition.”

There are 10 BIAs in Seattle currently. Pelletier said the challenge for Capitol Hill is it has the most property owners within its proposed boundary, and reaching all of them has proven difficult.

“Public records are not really clear,” he said.

The chamber is actively advertising for a campaign manager to lead the Capitol Hill BIA effort, which would involve researching, contacting and meeting with property owners. Pelletier said that has been shown to take up to four hours per property owner.

“We’ve already seen an uptick in applications,” he said, adding more are expected to come in once professionals are finished managing various political campaigns.

Hansen told the Capitol Hill Times on her last day that she was stepping down to make way for the ramped up BIA focus.

“It was a hard decision to make,” she said, “but ultimately the chamber needs to move forward with the BIA stuff that makes sense to them.”

“I think the board is really committed to making sure that this moves forward,” Pelletier said.

Joe Mirabella with the Seattle Office of Economic Development, which oversees BIAs and citywide policies, said it can take several years to get a new business improvement area off the ground.

Pelletier said he’s not setting a goal for when the Capitol Hill BIA would form.

Should it receive the support needed, it would be governed by a ratepayers advisory board and managed by an executive director.