From alleyways to retail recruitment: Seattle offering $1.6M to improve neighborhoods

SEATTLE - Community leaders in the University District want to change the way residents think about alleyways. Business leaders in Pioneer Square are working hard to recruit more retailers. And, residents in Chinatown-International District continue looking for ways to keep their streets safe and clean.

These are just a few of the neighborhood projects that have been funded in the past by the Office of Economic Development's Only in Seattle Initiative. Now in its fourth year, the initiative is looking for other neighborhood business districts interested in applying for a portion of the $1.6 million currently available in grant money.

"We are asking neighborhoods to come in with a joint proposal and work together on ideas, plans and proposals," says Karin Zaugg Black, with the Office of Economic Development. "Strong leadership in a community has a greater chance of success."

The initiative not only provides money but also staff support for local communities. Zaugg Black says growing and vibrant business districts are key to building not only successful neighborhoods but also Seattle's economy overall, one of the major goals behind the Only in Seattle program.

This weekend, the U-District is planning a kick-off party for its alley activation project, which the U-District Chamber of Commerce's Erin Goodman says is among a number of revitalization efforts happening thanks in part to a $155,000 grant the community received from the Only in Seattle Initiative last year.

"We are looking to turn the alleys into livable, usable spaces," Goodman says. "The money is absolutely critical. So much work needs to be done, and people are excited about possibilities in the U-District. There is a lot of room for growth."

Zaugg Black says while anyone can apply for a grant, the city only accepts one application per neighborhood. She recommends if a resident or community leader has an idea it's best to collaborate with other community leaders, businesses and organizations and work together on the project implementation.

The Office of Economic Development will hold two informational sessions about the Only in Seattle program and how to apply for the grant. Information for the meetings can be found online.

The deadline for applications is Nov. 1.