Seattle’s business district managers discover new resources for commercial affordability

On May 31, 2018 about 15 business district managers from across Seattle gathered together at a local startup firm – Blokable – to discuss commercial affordability. The Office of Economic Development’s (OED) Only in Seattle, Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship and Innovation teams, in partnership with the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDPDA) and Onpoint Real Estate Services, organized this peer networking event to share a model for commercial lease education workshops in Chinatown ID and Little Saigon, vet innovative solutions for affordable commercial space, and make connections between business districts.

Blokable—a local startup manufacturer of pre-fabricated housing units that are modular, or stackable, to create multistory residential or mixed-use buildings—launched to reinvent the construction and manufacturing process to be more efficient, green and affordable. Blokable units are cheaper and can deliver results faster than the traditional affordable home building process; think 21st century, tech-enabled mobile homes with a completely redesigned building, delivery and installation process and the ability for commercial uses. Imagine the possibilities! We started the event with lunch catered by San Fernando’s and a self-tour of a Blokable unit – a 300ft2 studio, fully equipped with a bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, lighting and heating. The unit is mobile and can be transported on the back of a semi-truck to almost any destination. As we settled into the agenda, Aaron Holm, Blokable’s Co-CEO spoke to the group about the how the company started and the potential for commercial uses. Want to see Blokable in action? Check out the latest project in Edmonds, WA in partnership with Compass Housing Alliance.

Next, Ken Takahashi, OED’s Development Finance Advisor, introduced OED’s business services and shared the ways in which OED is supporting commercial affordability. Reasonable rents are not the only definition of commercial affordability. A broader approach includes innovative space ideas like Blokable’s products, and education efforts such as commercial lease education workshops, the second topic of the peer networking event.

Jennifer Tam, OED’s Restaurant Advocate and Shanti Breznau, SCIDPDA’s Business Development Manager, presented the model they are using for commercial lease education workshops in Chinatown ID and Little Saigon. They discussed how they developed the curriculum for the workshop series, outreach and engagement methods, and why local grassroots capacity is so critical to the success of designing and executing the workshop. The Commercial Lease Education Workshop overview provides additional details on the program, and you can get an inside look into the second workshop (Vietnamese, Simplified Chinese) that featured tenant improvements—a major factor when it comes to new and existing tenants. A unique feature of the workshop series is relationship building with business owners. Through Shanti’s connections, she knew translation and interpretation services would be essential to a successful workshop, and the content was translated into two languages – Vietnamese and Chinese.

In addition to the workshop series in Chinatown ID and Little Saigon, OED contracted with Onpoint Real Estate Services to provide city-wide workshops on broader lease education topics. Onpoint’s Managing Partner, Jaebadiah Gardner, and his staff will consult with individual business owners on their lease challenges for up to five hours for free. Please contact Yonas Seifu to learn more and get connected to Onpoint for your business needs.

Throughout the presentations, district managers were asked a guiding question – how could you adapt these services to work in your district? To close out the meeting, there was a robust conversation among all the attendees to iterate and expand on these offerings. OED will be following up individually with districts that expressed interest in hosting a commercial lease education workshop and explore partnership opportunities with Blokable to bring affordable commercial options to Seattle’s underutilized space. If you have any questions, please follow up with OED or one of our partners listed below.

More resources from the presentation can be found below:

Land use resources to monitor and track development:

City of Seattle opens Miller Annex preschool facility

Today, March 6, 2018, the City of Seattle announced the opening of a new preschool space adjacent to Miller Community Center. The Miller Annex is the result of a $3M partnership between Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Seattle Preschool Program to increase the quantity and accessibility of licensable preschool space in Seattle.

The Miller Annex center will be a part of the Seattle Preschool Program and serve 80 three and four-year-old children in this new location. Two classrooms will open in March 2018 and stay open throughout the summer.  All four classrooms will be open for the 2018-19 school year. Applications for the ’18 – ’19 school year will open on March 15 at

As part of the Seattle Preschool Program, Seattle voters set aside $8.5 million to support the expansion, renovation, or improvement of early education facilities to help ease the pressure on early learning providers to find usable space for preschool classrooms. The Department of Education and Early Learning invested $1.7 million of Seattle Preschool Program Levy funds for the Miller Annex tenant improvements.

The Miller Annex of Miller Community Center is owned by Seattle Parks and Recreation who contributed approximately $1.3 million in funding to significantly upgrade the facility.

The construction process consisted of substantial alterations to the core of the building, including seismic, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and energy-related improvements.

All four of the preschool classrooms will be operated by Launch, a provider who has been with Seattle Preschool Program since its first year. Launch (formerly named Community Day School Association) offers high quality preschool, before & after school, and summer programs for children ages 3-12.

Approved by voters in 2014, Seattle Preschool Program providers receive funding from the City, intensive coaching and training for their teachers, and
access to teacher education and facility improvement funds to offer high-quality early learning opportunities for Seattle’s four-year-olds and income eligible three-year-olds.

The Seattle Preschool Program helps prepare children to enter school with the skills they need to succeed. Research shows that children who attend high quality preschool programs have better academic and life outcomes: they’re more likely to have better grades, graduate, attend college, get a job, have higher lifetime wages and better mental and physical health.



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Seattle to hold Digital Literacy Network meet-ups

Do you want to work together to push forward shared interests in cultivating a more digital literate Seattle for K-12 students, young adults, adults, and senior citizens? Come join us Nov 13, 15, or 17 to share your work and ideas for collaborating to improve digital skills for the community you work with. The Seattle Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) and the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB) are convening two in-person and one online session to explore a digital literacy network.

The idea for a digital literacy network or something similar came up in the community input as we were developing Seattle’s Digital Equity Initiative.  Similar groups have formed elsewhere, including Kansas City’s Coalition for Digital Inclusion Alliance and Philadelphia’s Digital Literacy Alliance.  These coalitions are helping market educational opportunities, train trainers, recruit and place volunteers, develop funding, identify skills standards and assessment tools, exchange curriculum, and/or increase awareness of the need for digital literacy. These efforts can complement other broadband, education, STEM, immigrant/refugee, or social service coalitions. They involve a range of community based organizations, companies, public agencies, schools, foundations, and community members.

Seattle IT and CTAB are hosting three meet-ups the week of November 13-17 to learn who wants to be involved and what the needs and priorities would be. One meet-up will be in the north end, one in the south/west area, and one will be virtual (phone/internet).

Please join us for one of these dates:

  • Monday, November 13, 9-10:30 a.m. at Literacy Source, 3200 NE 125th St, Seattle, WA
  • Wednesday, November 15, 10-11:30 a.m. at Delridge Community Center, 4501 Delridge Way SW, Seattle, WA
  • Friday, November 17, 12-1 p.m. virtual meeting online

If you’re interested, please RSVP to with your name, organization, and which meet-up you would like to participate in.  Please let us know if you need special accommodations or an interpreter. Feel free to invite others!

Employers step up with opportunities for Seattle’s youth

Today, Mayor Ed Murray celebrates the start day of the Summer 2017 Internship season by thanking new corporate partners and City departments that are supporting the Mayor’s Youth Employment Initiative (MYEI). Support for the initiative ranges from hosting interns to contributing funds to support wages for youth placed at other organizations. To date, more than $500,000 has been raised to support interns’ wages, transportation, and other support, in addition to employers who host and pay the interns directly.

Meet some of this summer’s interns:

This year’s partners include: Anchor QEA, Artefact Group, AT&T, C+C, Comcast, Downtown Seattle Association, Evergreens, Foster Pepper PLLC, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, Swedish, Harborview Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, King County International Airport/Boeing Field, Launch, Novo Nordisk, Pacifica Law Group, Point B Inc., Port of Seattle, Tom Douglas Restaurants, Uber and Waldron.

“As we work to ensure that all Seattle youth are prepared to thrive in tomorrow’s economy, one of the most important experiences a young person can have is on-the-job training and connections to a professional network,” said Mayor Murray. “In a city with so much economic growth and opportunity, we can’t leave Seattle’s young people behind, particularly youth of color. By providing opportunities to Seattle’s youth, employers are changing lives. I want to thank those who have stepped forward and challenge more companies and organizations to get involved.”

Building on decades of success of the Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP), in 2015 Mayor Murray launched the MYEI, which connects Seattle youth ages 14-24 with paid internships and employment opportunities. Seattle youth ages 16-19 have an unemployment rate around 21 percent, while unemployment for youth ages 20-24 hovers around 10 percent, far above the overall city rate of 2.9 percent. As a result, Seattle youth are missing out on vital work experience and income, which hurts lifetime earnings.

“JPMorgan Chase is committed to helping communities make a long-term investment in increasing the number of available summer jobs and turning those jobs into employment opportunities down the road,” said Phyllis Campbell, Chairman, JPMorgan Chase, Pacific Northwest. “We feel our support of the Summer Youth Employment Program is an important way we are helping to build the long-term success of the local economy. Young people are facing an employment crisis—too many cannot find summer jobs and, as a result, they’re missing out on a critical opportunity to be personally and professionally successful in the future.”

“We are excited to participate in the Mayor’s Youth Employment Initiative this summer,” said Point B Inc. Managing Director for People Jill Going. “For Point B, we embrace any opportunity to meet the future talent pool of Seattle, expose them to a career in consulting, and inspire them to be their best. We also recognize the strategic nature of this initiative as one way to help solve the growing workforce needs in our booming economy. By building a pipeline between the emerging workforce and local businesses, we are planting seeds for future employment. By providing an opportunity to work, students get inspired, build goals and hopefully channel their education into skills that our city needs.”

The need for summer employment opportunities continues to grow. In 2015, the initiative connected more than 2,000 youth with life-changing internship opportunities. The City enlisted Educurious in 2016 to include the private sector in the solution and saw a 74 percent increase in the number of positions filled, totaling 3,484. This year, as the initiative continues to grow, we are strengthening our partnerships with the community, including Seattle Public Schools, Juma Ventures, YouthCare, and YouthForce.

Earlier this year, Mayor Murray announced a new directive extending participation in MYEI to all City departments.

To learn more and register your organization to participate in the initiative, visit


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Mayor Murray commits $300,000 to launch Our Best initiative

Last week, Mayor Ed Murray signed legislation to authorize $300,000 to support the launch of the Our Best initiative . Our Best is the City of Seattle’s first ever initiative specifically focused on improving life outcomes for young Black men and boys, specifically in the following areas: education, economic mobility, health, safety and positive connections to caring adults. The initiative represents an investment by Mayor Murray to address the disproportionate impact of institutional racism on Black people, and particularly young Black men and boys. Positive Connections is one of the Phase I priority pillars of work, which has an established goal of doubling the number of Black men mentoring young Black men and boys through formal mentoring programs.

“Mentoring has been shown to improve emotional well-being, high-school graduation rates, college enrollment, and other positive long-term outcomes. In Seattle, there are not enough Black men mentors, leaving many mentor programs ill-equipped to support young Black men in culturally responsive ways. And, there is significant interest among local organizations to recruit more. Our goal with this new commitment of the Our Best program is to double the number of black men mentors. Our Best is all of ours. And the fight for young Black men is a fight for Seattle, and our region.”

The mentorship pilot program will run for one year starting in July 2017. Additionally, the Our Best initiative involves the creation of an advisory Mayor’s Council on Black Male Achievement to include members of local academic, governmental, business, and faith communities.

For more information regarding the Our Best Advisory Council and/or supporting the mentorship program should reach out to Anthony Shoecraft at or visit

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