Only in Seattle: Empowering Local Businesses & Strengthening Neighborhoods


The Only in Seattle Initiative is a partnership between Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, Department of Transportation and Department of Neighborhoods. The Initiative provides seed funding and support that empowers local residents and businesses to create and collaborate on shared goals. The Initiative strives to build an equitable and resilient Seattle by strengthening neighborhood business districts as vibrant centers of commerce, community and culture.

The Only in Seattle Initiative has approximately $1,400,000 available annually for district grants and services to aid five strategy areas: Organization, Business Development, Marketing and Events, Placemaking, and Clean and Safe Districts.

Here are just a few examples of how districts have used Only in Seattle to achieve their goals in the past:

Central Area Collaborative – Organization
Organizational support is centered on helping local businesses, building owners, and residents develop shared priorities, collaborate on taking action and establish a structure for ongoing work. Gentrification in the Central Area is a well-documented issue—what is lesser known is how local leaders are using OIS to work together on reversing this trend. The community has been able to organize in support of black-owned businesses and community-owned spaces.

Ballard – Business Development, BIA
Business development efforts focus on supporting local businesses and attracting new businesses that complement and serve the district. In 2011, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce asked OIS for help in facing the challenges of rapid growth and a changing economy. OIS invested in the Chamber’s multi-year effort to engage the community in reframing its future. They ultimately created a Business Improvement Area (BIA) to allow ongoing management of district events, monitor urban design and transportation, and improve community safety and health. The Chamber became the Ballard Alliance and is now ready to lead their community’s growth and prosperity for years to come.

Plate of Nations – Marketing and Events
Funding for marketing and events aids the image of the business districts to draw more customers. Working together with OIS, Plate of Nations has become a lucrative restaurant event, drawing visitors from across the region to taste the wide range of cuisine offered along MLK Way. OIS has been supporting the MLK Business Association since the event’s inception, which has grown to bring over 2,500 people from 34 cities in Washington and 42 Seattle neighborhoods, with over 1,200 dishes sold. Plate of Nations celebrates the neighborhood’s diversity while directly benefiting local businesses.

First Hill – Placemaking
Placemaking projects support the beautification and activation of public spaces as well as urban design and mobility within a district. The First Hill Improvement Association (FHIA) is using OIS grant money to infuse new life in their public spaces. FHIA used OIS grant money to transform 72 columns under Interstate 5 between James Street and Cherry Street into a public art installation, among their other projects.

Canton Alley – Clean and Safe District
Clean and safe activities work to ensure the district is clean, welcoming and safe for all. Canton Alley in the Chinatown-International District was historically a favorite community gathering place that changed over time into an uninviting alley filled with dumpsters and pot holes. A group of organizers wanted to revitalize the alley and worked over many years to raise the funding to do so. With the help of OIS, Canton Alley is now a safe and beautiful gathering place for the community.

Have an idea for a project in your neighborhood? Ideal candidates for OIS funding are business districts with clear geographical boundaries, and one proposal per district. Organizations must have a clear plan of action, and the plan must focus on creating an immediate impact. Business districts that qualify for federal funds are also encouraged to apply.

Visit Only in Seattle’s website for more information. The application for next year’s grants are due October 30, 2017 – you can apply here.