Seattle’s Central Area is both a local neighborhood and a destination. The retail environment is homegrown, with few national chains and many local shops serving niche markets. The Central Area supports approximately 4600 job and 440 firms, according to the Downtown Seattle Association’s Central Area 2015 Neighborhood Profile. Yet today, Central Area businesses are facing a series of challenges, with unique opportunities that will elevate its economic, social and cultural contributions:

Reduced Affordability of Housing and Business Ownership: Retaining and growing Black/African American-owned businesses in the Central Area is a significant challenge. A 2014 Market Study prepare for the 23rd Avenue ACT identified more than $200 million in annual retail leakage in the Central Area, with the top category being General Merchandise. Retail leakage occurs when local people are spending more for goods than local businesses actually acquire.

Gentrification, Displacement and Financial Impacts: The rapid climb in commercial and residential rents are displacing long-time residents and business owners, while older and more affordable spaces are being lost to redevelopment. This is directly impacting the establishment, retention and growth of independent, micro, and small businesses, including those focused on the food ecosystem and culturally-specific services reflective of the African diaspora. Furthermore, construction projects along 23rd Avenue are causing significant financial impacts to businesses residing in that corridor, due to traffic and bus rerouting.

Building Trust and Collaboration within the Community: With the rapidly-changing environment, the established community is experiencing challenges unifying the community around common goals and vision, while promoting collaboration and community-led solutions. The region requires a collective voice, embracing organizations, businesses, and individuals with deep community roots.


The City of Seattle is committed to the continued vibrancy of the historic Central Area. The Office of Economic Development is committed to working in partnership with the community. Through the Only in Seattle initiative, a partnership between neighborhood business districts and the City’s Office of Economic Development, OED has demonstrated, and will continue to demonstrate, commitment to the Central Area by investing in efforts that…

  • allow small businesses to grow and flourish, making a positive contribution to the city’s economic health;
  • reflect the unique character of the neighborhoods where they are located and contribute to their vitality; and
  • empower business owners to organize around a common vision and attract investment.

All departments of the City of Seattle are aligned and in partnership with the comprehensive vision and subsequent goals for the Central Area. The City is excited about the future of this community and is committed to being held accountable for its continued growth and vitality. We are, and will remain, partners in manifesting a shared vision and achieving community-driven goals that promote social vibrancy, facilitate economic resiliency, build community capacity, and preserve cultural legacy in the Central Area.

Only in Seattle Grant Information:

Mayor’s Commitment Letter 2016

Commercial Revitalization Plan 2015 – 2018



Within each goal, we prioritize short- and long-term efforts. We do this to achieve our goals in a timely and efficient manner. These strategies are directly tied to the day-to-day work of the business and community members who support the Central Area Commercial Revitalization Plan.

The strategies identified below reflect the prioritized efforts of our known work. They will shape our work for the next three years while remaining flexible enough to respond to new and time-sensitive opportunities. Each goal in this plan is supported by two to three strategies. These strategies are the standards against which we will measure our progress and impact.


Align Ongoing Commercial Development in the Central Area with community input.

STRATEGY 1: Increase community awareness of opportunities to engage and influence development and land use projects.

STRATEGY 2: Make commercial development accountable to community priorities.

STRATEGY 3: Identify collaborative leaders willing to serve as liaisons to commercial developers.


Establish, retain, and grow independent, micro and small businesses in the Central Area.

STRATEGY 1: Develop a coordinated marketing strategy for small businesses in the Central Area.

STRATEGY 2: Offer technical and professional development support to Central Area business owners.

STRATEGY 3: Provide the financial and technical support needed to make Black business ownership more affordable and accessible in the Central Area.


Increase job training and social services for special populations living and working in the Central Area.

STRATEGY 1: Partner with schools, educational institutions, and city departments to identify job training and program needs for special populations.

STRATEGY 2: Identify and partner with local organizations, businesses, and financial institutions to support programs and align job training with available and emerging employment opportunities.


Develop a thriving, high-quality, and educcational food ecosystem reflective of the African diaspora.

STRATEGY 1: Create the right food production and retail mix for the community.

STRATEGY 2: Practice group economics and investment for spaces and marketing.


Establish the Central Area as an African American arts and cultural center.

STRATEGY 1: Partner with the Office of Arts & Culture to establish the Central Area as a cultural arts district.

STRATEGY 2: Develop an ecosystem to support arts- and culture-based businesses.