On October 11, 2023, the mayor of Seattle, Washington, Bruce Harrell, joined community leaders to celebrate and sign a slate of newly adopted legislation supporting the city’s revitalizing Downtown Activation Plan.
“Responding to issues facing downtowns across the nation, we are advancing a bold new vision for Downtown: Capturing the spirit of innovation, inclusivity, and forward-thinking that has defined Seattle for decades to build a safe, welcoming, thriving Downtown for everyone,” said Harrell. “This legislation will support immediate and future efforts that deliver on our One Seattle vision for this integral part of our city, adding more housing, creating new opportunities for small businesses and workers, and building community with fun and exciting activities for residents and visitors of all ages. I appreciate the Council acting quickly on this package of legislation.”
The legislation includes zoning enhancements allowing increased residential redevelopment along Third Avenue and improved flexibility for hotels in Belltown, promoting street use activations by waiving fees and permit costs, and strengthening public-private partnerships with Downtown businesses and organizations, including efforts to increase activation in downtown parks and support arts education programs serving youth and communities of color.
The bills were signed into law at King Street Station, which will host five arts nonprofit organizations as part of the legislation, helping expand Downtown as a cultural hub and support a growing creative economy.
Aligned with this legislation, Mayor Harrell’s 2024 Budget Proposal provides needed investments to advance the Downtown Activation Plan, reflecting the mayor’s commitment to creating a safe and welcoming neighborhood, strengthening the creative economy, activating public spaces, filling vacant storefronts, and driving long-term economic development initiatives.
The newly adopted DAP legislation includes:
- Supporting investment in residential development along the Third Avenue corridor by allowing building heights in the retail core to increase from 170’ to 440’ and creating incentives for builders to include space for a future downtown school (CB 120632).
- Increasing flexibility for siting hotels in parts of Belltown to increase foot traffic and bring more visitors Downtown (CB 120631).
- Waiving citywide permitting fees through January 1, 2026, that are associated with food trucks, food carts, and small-to-medium scale street and sidewalk events and activities that are open to the public (CB 120642).
- A lease agreement with Cultural Space Agency to bring five arts non-profits into the second floor of King Street Station (CB120666).
- Expanding the City’s partnership with the Downtown Seattle Association to bring new activation activities to Bell Street Park and Pioneer Square, in addition to DSA’s existing work in Occidental Square and Westlake Park (CB 120664).
- Affirming the City of Seattle’s support for a public-private partnership between the City, Seattle Public Schools, and the One Roof Partnership to redevelop Memorial Stadium (Res 32110).
These legislative actions are one part of the City’s efforts to create enhanced safety Downtown by providing enhanced services, law enforcement efforts, community-based solutions, environmental changes, and new programming.
This slate of legislation delivers on the seven bold goals identified in the mayor’s Downtown Activation Plan, to transform Downtown into a top destination for Seattleites and visitors year-round and lively collection of neighborhoods where families, small businesses, workers, neighbors and visitors of all kinds can live, work, learn, and grow together.
Recently, City Council and Mayor Harrell signed into law additional legislation to advance Downtown revitalization through the new Seattle Tourism Improvement Area and the renewal of the Metropolitan Improvement Area.
Mayor Harrell also submitted new legislation this month to the City Council to extend Master Use Permits for buildings to six years to ensure projects already in the pipeline for Downtown are not slowed down.
Local leaders and downtown merchants voiced their support for the revitalization plan:
Councilmember Andrew Lewis, District 7 (Downtown, Pioneer Square) said, “Over the past year we have laid the groundwork to reinvigorate our Downtown. Post-Covid, downtowns worldwide need to evolve and diversify. That means more residents living in the city core, programs to reduce disorder, and more activated open space and parks. I am proud to have led on efforts to reduce disorder Downtown such as JustCARE and the Third Avenue Project and am grateful for Mayor Harrell’s partnership on those programs and on these ongoing efforts to reshape this neighborhood so that is open, safe, and accessible to everyone.”
Councilmember Sara Nelson, Chair of Council’s Economic Development Committee, Position 9 said, “The Downtown Activation Plan represents what the region’s economic engine has needed for a long time: an intentional and concrete set of actions to spur growth while adding housing and supporting local artists and small businesses. I applaud Mayor Harrell for executing on this suite of legislation and public space activation.”
Councilmember Dan Strauss, Chair of Council’s Land Use Committee, District 6 said, “Downtown’s success is critical to our entire city and region’s success. Downtown Seattle is the heartbeat of our region because it is the meeting point from the west to Bremerton, Kingston, Vashon, and Bainbridge islands, from the South to Tacoma, from the North to Everett, and East to the Cascades. These bills change zoning to keep up with the changing nature of shopping and Downtown’s needs. Downtown is bigger than any one of us, it takes all of us to make it the gem we know it can be, and the Downtown Action Plan does just that.”
Markham McIntyre, Office of Economic Development Director said “Downtown is the economic engine for our city, our region, and our state and we are bullish about its future. These bills will help activate Downtown, unlock new investments, housing, events, and, most importantly, encourage more people to come Downtown.”
Jon Kiehnau, Belltown resident and board member of Belltown United, Uplift NW said “I don’t keep a car in Seattle. I get around mostly on foot, bike, and public transit. I’ve been on our streets on our best days, and our worst days. I believe these initiatives make a clear statement that acknowledges a city is a living entity, that can continue to strive to do better. Investments in Third Avenue, and more flexibility in opening hotels in Belltown will directly impact our small business community, create new jobs, and increase foot traffic which will make our streets more active and safer for residents, workers and visitors. I want to thank Mayor Harrell and members of the City Council who made this moment possible.”
Daniel Pak, Totem Star Executive Director and Co-Founder said, “With the passage of this new landmark legislation, our aspiring young artists will never have to ask permission again for space to write, rehearse, record, perform, collaborate, and simply, create. Generations of youth artists will now be able to gather in this historic landmark train station, nestled in the heart of what the Coast Salish ancestors referred to as Dzidzilalich, the little crossing-over place. Now, we foresee a future for our young people with more crossing over into opportunity in the creative economy, participation in the revitalization of this new downtown, and simply, more arts, culture, and joy.”
Lyz and Jeanette Macias, Co-Founders of Seeking Cultura and Owners of Seeking Ferments said, “We believe that a thriving community is the backbone of any successful business and economy. We’ve witnessed firsthand how small businesses like ours can serve as catalysts for positive change. But it’s not just about us; it’s about the collective power of small businesses coming together to revitalize our downtown area. Alone we can only do so much, but together we are creating a city that is not just “activated” but alive with culture, creativity, and commerce.”
Unless otherwise credited, all photos are courtesy of the Office of Mayor Harrell.