On August 1, 2022 in Seattle, Washington, the city’s Office of Economic Development (OED) and Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the expansion of Seattle Restored.
As previously reported here in REVITALIZATION, Seattle Restored is an economic recovery program that matches small business owners, artists and entrepreneurs with vacant commercial storefronts to host short-term pop-up shops and art installations.
“Revitalizing our neighborhood business districts is a top priority, so I’m excited to welcome this expansion of the Seattle Restored Program to neighborhoods throughout the city,” said Councilmember Sara Nelson, Chair of the Economic Development, Technology, and City Light Committee.
“Helping artists and small businesses that often struggle to afford commercial rents brings new energy to neighborhood business districts. Moreover, giving residents access to those artists and businesses improves the quality of life for everyone. Seattle Restored is making Seattle a better place to be,” she added.
OED originally launched Seattle Restored in partnership with Seattle Good Business Network and Shunpike in December 2021, and focused on activating vacant commercial storefronts in downtown Seattle neighborhoods such as Westlake, Belltown, Pioneer Square, and Chinatown-International District (CID). The program prioritizes Black, Indigenous, and other business owners, entrepreneurs and artists of color.
Now, Seattle Restored will activate an additional 45 vacant commercial properties in neighborhoods throughout Seattle with vibrant and engaging streetscapes that encourage the public to visit neighborhoods, support local businesses and support local artists.
Additionally, 15 out of 30 current Seattle Restored participant leases will be extended for an additional 6 months due to landlord interest in continuing with the program—giving participating entrepreneurs additional time to gauge their ability and interest in pursuing a longer-term lease.
“Activating formerly vacant spaces with opportunities for small businesses, local artists, and new entrepreneurs is how we can re-energize our Seattle economy, improve public safety, and drive equity – all at the same time,” said Mayor Harrell.
“The expansion of the Seattle Restored program across the city and beyond the downtown core means more neighborhoods, business districts, and communities benefit from a boost in engagement and activity. We are excited to grow this program, expand outlets for expression of creative visions and big ideas, and encourage everyone to visit, explore, and enjoy all Seattle has to offer,” he added.
Phase one of Seattle Restored is supporting the activation of 30 vacant storefronts with engaging pop-up shops and art installations from local entrepreneurs, artists and manufacturers in downtown neighborhoods. In phase two of the program, interested business owners, artists and entrepreneurs can apply for the following types of activations for properties throughout Seattle:
- Pop-Up Shop – Run your own business in a vacant commercial space.
- Art Installation – Exhibit and sell your artwork via QR code from a street-facing window display.
- QR Code Window Shopping – Advertise and sell your products via QR code from a street-facing window display.
- Collective Pop-Up Shop – Share space with other Seattle Restored participants in a collective retail marketplace.
- Restaurant Pop-Up Residency – Run your own restaurant residency for one month in a vacant commercial space.
“This past April we visited several Seattle Restored popups in Pioneer Square and Downtown, like Taswira and INSIDE, to see how these incredible entrepreneurs were able to bring their visions to life and bring new life to the surrounding communities. This is why we are so excited to expand the program to activate additional commercial spaces across the city – we are rebuilding our economic ecosystem,” said Markham McIntyre, Interim Director of the Seattle Office of Economic Development.
“Seattle Restored is a great example of the dot-connecting role our office can play by helping connect business owners looking for retail space with vacant commercial storefronts. Our job is to support them in securing affordable space that meets their needs so that they can be successful and grow,” he added.
Program participants will receive $2,500 in working capital to help set up the commercial space and receive complementary support including commercial space development, marketing strategy development and execution, and other forms of technical assistance (e.g., product inventory management, customer development strategies in new markets).
“The Inside was a vision I had been working on long before Seattle Restored. This program allowed me to pitch my concept and receive the support needed to make it a reality. Partnering with Seattle Restored has allowed me to secure a commercial space downtown Seattle that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. Seattle Restored allowed me to amplify over 40 local brands and artists and create a space for the community to come together and explore, create, and heal through our events,” said Sierra Jones, social entrepreneur and creative visionary of INSIDE.
“This program has given me a chance to make my dreams come true, and we have been given a considerable foot forward in creating something lasting. I can reinvest our profits back into the business instead of having to go into the red trying to cover overhead costs. Funds I would have otherwise spent on rent, I have been able to re-invest in opportunities that help grow the business in sustainable ways,” she explained.
Although phase two of Seattle Restored is expanding to activate commercial properties citywide, emphasis will be on activating new neighborhoods like Little Saigon, Southeast Seattle and Ballard in addition to Downtown, Pioneer Square, Belltown and Chinatown-International District.
For property owners, there is no cost to participate and Seattle Restored will provide a one-time fixed payment of $2,000 plus $500 to offset utility costs. Property owners interested in activating their space through the Seattle Restored program can complete the landlord interest form.
“Participating in the Seattle Restored program has been a wonderful opportunity for us to reconnect with Downtown Seattle by engaging people through our installation and physically spending time on-site working on it,” said Plamena Milusheva, participating artist.
“It has been a way to rejoin the downtown fabric in a new capacity and to contribute to it more directly than when we were just going to our office buildings before the pandemic. It would be amazing to see the program continue to grow and evolve, becoming a more permanent element of downtown life and art,” she continued.
Many Seattle neighborhoods have experienced business closures and commercial space vacancies that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Seattle Restored aims to mitigate against these harms and support small businesses, entrepreneurs and artists activate commercial storefronts, regain their financial health and gain exposure to new customers.
“We are providing a pathway for growth for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, and removing barriers to affordability commercial real estate, especially for BIPOC small business owners and artists. We are excited to bring this program citywide and continue to provide tangible solutions that activate storefronts throughout the city with fresh, innovative, and local retail concepts and art installations,” said Chera Amlag, Seattle Restored Program Manager—OED.
This program will especially benefit BIPOC, and woman owned businesses that have had disproportionate financial losses due to the pandemic, loss of foot traffic, consumer behavior changes, shift to an e-commerce dominated economy and barriers to affordable commercial space in Seattle neighborhoods.
“It was an amazing experience to get to show work with Seattle Restored. Not only were we able to experiment in a new way collaboratively, but it was also really empowering to be able to bring our vision to life in a large storefront space in the heart of the city. We felt super supported by the community every step of the way and a powerful reminder that art and artists matter!” said May Kytonen (part of the artist duo Lumi), creator of Anterior Periapt located at 2+U Urban Village.
In addition to Seattle Restored, OED has invested $8 million in the Capital Access Program — a new partnership with local community development financial institutions (CDFI) that connects small businesses to flexible working capital loans; $6 million in neighborhood recovery grants; $4 million in stabilization grants for small businesses, launched Shop to the Beat — a recovery program that matches local musicians with small retail businesses to provide in-store performances during peak business hours, help increase foot traffic and sales for retailers, and provide competitive pay for musicians who lost significant income due to the impacts of COVID-19; and more than $300k in digital access programs for small business owners and young people including the Digital Sales Access Program and Youth Web Design program.