Central Area Collaborative Working to Support Central Area Businesses

Only in Seattle Grant Celebration May 31, 2016

Every year, the Office of Economic Development’s Only in Seattle initiative supports investments in neighborhood business districts, and focuses on the following strategies to create strong business districts:

  • Business and retail development (supporting businesses, attracting new businesses)
  • Marketing and promotion (events, social media, district advertising)
  • Clean and safe (graffiti removal, garbage pick-up, lighting)
  • Streetscape and appearance (catalytic development projects, façade, public art)
  • Business organization development to sustain the effort, including the creation of a Business Improvement Area (BIA) or exploration to form one.

One of this year’s recipients was the Central Area Collaborative. Like every community organization who sets out to improve the conditions of their neighborhood, there is a robust story of community and collaboration. Here is one of those stories.

In April 2015, the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development (OED) launched a commercial revitalization planning process in Seattle’s Central Area as part of the Only in Seattle initiative. The desire to develop a plan was in direct response to business owner and community member requests for greater investment in the economic vitality of this historic community. OED hired Nyawela Consulting, a Seattle-based communications firm, to facilitate a community engagement process and write the Central Area Commercial Revitalization Plan. More than 180 individuals and representatives from fifty organizations participated in twenty meetings over a six-month period. OED and Nyawela Consulting worked in partnership to develop relationships and create the environments and processes that would ultimately inspire, inform, and create the Central Area Commercial Revitalization Plan.

The goals, strategies, and measures found in the Central Area Commercial Revitalization Plan support the guiding vision for the neighborhood, as described in the 23rd Avenue Action Plan created in 2013. The City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development led a community-centered process to develop the 23rd Avenue Action Plan—an update to the 1998 Central Area Neighborhood Plan that focused specifically on the 23rd Avenue corridor.

All participants involved in the engagement process were eager to attract investments and take action to implement the five goals identified in the Commercial Revitalization Plan. A handful of leaders from various organizations in the community stepped up to form the Central Area Collaborative—a collection of local business community leaders that have agreed to work together and align their efforts and resources to achieve a great business community.

Mission: The mission of the Central Area Collaborative is to create and sustain a framework for commercial vitality, leadership development and cultural legacy preservation that inspires and attracts investments in high-quality strategies and tools, resulting in wealth creation for historical, present, and future residents, reflective of the brilliance of a culturally diverse and respectful community.

Vision: Seattle’s Central Area is a thriving economic and culturally vibrant community whose sustainable solutions arise from its residents and business owners and the community is respectful of its cultural heritages.

The Central Area Collaborative is a model for a multi sector coordinated approach for economic development which provides the funding, communication, building/construction capacity; business support at all levels and is self-sustaining. Though our works we help retain and grow micro and small business in the Central Area.

Leadership Council Members


Name Title
Evelyn Thomas Allen Convener-BCIA
Hugh Bangasser Central Area Property Owner
Dennis Comer Central Area Business Owner
Leon Garnett COO-Centerstone
Lois A. Martin 23rd Ave Action Plan
Sheley Seacrest NAACP
Heyward Watson Principal, Creat8ve Minds Consulting
DeCharlene Williams President, Central Area Chamber of Commerce
K. Wyking Garrett- Founding member no longer on Leadership Council/still partner Africatown



April-August 2015 – OED Engagement with Central Area to develop commercial revitalization plan

September 2015 – Central Area volunteers formed Collaborative to decide on how to implement goals and strategies found in the Commercial Revitalization Plan

October-November 2015 – Central Area Collaborative applied to the Only in Seattle Initiative

January 2016 – OED informed the Collaborative grant committee that they were awarded a grant

April 2016 – OED awards celebration for all OIS award recipients was held at a restaurant in the Central Area (Taste of the Caribbean) and the Collaborative was highlighted

January- present – Collaborative has been working through the projects that were proposed in the grant to help achieve the goals/strategies outlined in the commercial revitalization plan.

[Planned activity] End of summer – Public meeting with past involved parties and those interested in the Collaborative’s work

2016 goals to focus on:

  • Align ongoing commercial development in the central area with community input.
  • Establish, retain, and grow independent, micro, and small businesses in the Central Area.
  • Establish the central area as an African American arts and cultural center.

They are committed to these goals through the following activities:

  • Develop an organizational structure and framework
  • Help produce Central Area Design Guidelines
  • Conduct needs assessment of independent, micro and small businesses in the Central Area to identify their technical assistance needs; and develop a program to help meet those needs
  • Pilot a recommendation from the Mayor’s Commercial Affordability Advisory group to the benefit of a Central Area business

The Only in Seattle Initiative empowers neighborhood business districts to organize around a common vision and attract investment.

The Only in Seattle Initiative is a partnership between OED, Seattle Investment Fund LLC, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON), and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture (OAC). Grant funding is available (contingent upon federal and City funding allocations) for 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 & Promotion – District has a positive, consistent image that helps draw more customers to visit.
  3. Business and Retail 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. Appearance & Pedestrian Environment – The retail and pedestrian environment is attractive, inviting and easily accessible by multiple modes of transportation. Real estate projects that rehabilitate or replace vacant or underutilized spaces generate a sense of forward momentum and improvement in the district.
  5. Clean & Safe – The district is clean and customers, employees and visitors feel safe and welcome.

Other community organizations have gone through OIS community development process. Here are some examples:

The City of Seattle is proud to work with the Central Area Collaborative and are strong supporters of their mission.

Additional resources:

Centerstone Guides the Central Area Commercial Revitalization Plan

Central Area Collaborative receives $102,000 Only in Seattle Grant  

Mayor Ed Murray announces $1.6 million for neighborhood business districts