Commercial Revitalization Learnings From March – August 2014: Only in Seattle Peer Network Gathering

On Thursday, August 14 Seattle’s Office of Economic Development hosted the third Peer Network Gathering in 2014. Peer Network Gatherings, a component of the Only in Seattle Initiative, bring together leaders from business district organizations, chambers of commerce, and business associations to talk about priorities in their neighborhood. The Only in Seattle Initiative is how the Office of Economic Development invests in neighborhood business districts to promote vibrant commercial corridors that are safe and inviting. In 2014, 19 neighborhoods received funding from the Only in Seattle Initiative and all are working on projects for their districts and promoting and supporting businesses and property owners through their work.

Peer Network Gatherings have three different formats:

  • Presentation or lecture style with an expert invited to speak on a certain topic;
  • Workshops or trainings geared to assist business district revitalization; and
  • A peer exchange where leaders in attendance discuss what is emerging and important.

In 2014, we have had at least one of each format. In March, a consultant from New York, Larisa Ortiz, held a workshop focused on commercial district revitalization that drilled down to specifics about classifying your business district, gathering data, and the developing a retail recruitment strategy.

In July, we focused on public safety in neighborhood business districts and invited Leslie Smith of the Alliance for Pioneer Square to talk about the recent organization of public health service providers, police, and social services agencies to help improve public safety in Pioneer Square. Don Blakeney of the Chinatown/International District BIA also spoke about the need for more collaboration and described the approaches that the CIDBIA has taken to improve public safety and the perception of public safety for visitors, residents, and business and property owners.

July 2014 Meeting notes
Alliance for Pioneer Square – Public Safety Open House Model

In August, OED set the time and place and invited business district leaders to participate in an open-style conversation about emerging priorities in business districts. The event was well attended with over 15 people from 10 different neighborhoods that discussed major issues such as transportation, event coordination, property development, collaboration, communication across peers and more.

August 2014 Meeting notes

OED staff have heard the general consensus about Peer Network Gatherings to, “keep having them!” They provide a method to learn best practices from other neighborhoods and problem solve specific commercial districts issues. Where do Peer Network Gatherings go from here? How can we continue to collaborate and create systems to complement the work that we are all doing individually? We are better as we work closer together, but that takes time and resources.

As we plan ahead for the September Peer Network Gathering focused on cultural place-making and hear from Office of Arts and Culture staff, how do we measure the precise value of these peer networks and expand on them? If you have any ideas to share or want to sit down and brainstorm, please contact Mikel Davila at mikel.davila@seattle.gov.

Subscribe to the Only in Seattle Calendar for the complete schedule of upcoming Peer Network Gatherings.

Interested in the attending? Register here