Recovery Plan

In January 2020, downtown Seattle was outperforming city centers across the country. The prior decade brought record jobs, more people choosing to live downtown, unprecedented public investment, a vibrant arts and culture scene and a booming tourism industry. Just one month later, that momentum screeched to a halt when Seattle became the first urban center to feel the brunt of the pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, more than 200 downtown businesses permanently closed. Job losses have hit record highs, and arts organizations have experienced a 42% drop in total income.

As vaccination rates accelerate and our region opens up, DSA is leading downtown’s recovery, with financial support from Metropolitan Improvement District ratepayers. We believe that in order for downtown to reemerge from this crisis, we need to go back to the basics. That means ensuring downtown is clean, safe, welcoming and easy to access. It means playing on our unique strengths, leveraging downtown’s music, arts and culture scene. And it means delivering a downtown experience that is even more dynamic and inclusive than before.

DSA Key Priorities for Recovery

In March 2021, DSA President & CEO Jon Scholes c0-authored an editorial in the Seattle Times on the importance of downtown to our regional economy and the must-dos for recovery. In keeping with those priorities, the MID Ratepayer Advisory Board recently approved $3.2 million in spending to support a multifaceted recovery strategy. Our priority will be to enhance the public realm and the downtown experience, with a focus on cleaning, safety, events/activations and marketing, as outlined below.

Supporting a Safe & Welcoming Downtown

At DSA, we believe that downtown should be a place where everyone feels welcome, safe and comfortable. However, in a recent DSA survey, public safety was cited nearly twice as often as the next most-mentioned item when businesses were asked what they need to thrive post-pandemic. Respondents pointed to a lack of safety related to untreated mental health conditions and homelessness, especially downtown. To support recovery efforts, we’re adding additional mental health expertise to our Outreach Team. In addition to our MID-funded Safety ambassadors, we’ll invest in additional patrols through a contract with the Seattle Police Department.

To help reconnect workers and visitors to downtown, we’re hosting two “Welcome Back Weeks” (one set took place July 12-24) and the second is running September (4-19). From Sept. 13-19, we’re hosting Welcome Back Booths with free music, giveaways and refreshments. Friendly staff will be on hand to answer questions about what’s open, what’s changed and even information about commuting options.

Ensuring a Clean & Beautiful Downtown

As we welcome workers and visitors back downtown, DSA, with funding from the Metropolitan Improvement District, is stepping up efforts to ensure a clean and beautiful center city. In the coming months, we’ll be investing more than $650,000 in additional cleaning equipment, including more power trikes and pickup trucks, which allow our team to get to clean-ups more quickly. We’re hiring an additional 12 Clean Team ambassadors, and contracting for additional cleaning services, including pressure-washing and graffiti removal, at key entry points to downtown.

We’ll also continue to bring large-scale outdoor art installations to downtown and transform empty storefronts with art and activities. To support those efforts, we’ve set aside $250,000 of MID funding.

Creating Outdoor Events & Activations

Our recovery strategy includes countless opportunities for workers, residents and visitors to experience and participate in fun and safe events downtown. Have you missed live music? Ready for a picturesque urban hike?  Want to try your hand at a themed downtown scavenger hunt? With financial support from MID ratepayers, we’ve planned events and activations for a range of ages and interests all summer long and into the holidays. Summer activations are well underway and new events will be added regularly. Our Downtown Summer Sounds series launched in July with more concerts, featuring more genres and in more locations across downtown than ever before. So whether you live downtown or are coming back after months away, we invite you to come out and enjoy what only downtown has to offer.

Promoting Downtown through Communications & Marketing

The past year-plus has been a challenging one for downtown. A majority of workers have stayed home, and local visitors have stayed put in their outlying neighborhoods. As we move into recovery and reopening, we will invite locals to reconnect with the center city they love. To come back and explore world-class art in downtown’s amazing museums. Check out the transformation on the waterfront. Do some shopping or enjoy dinner or a drink on a rooftop bar. With financial support from the MID, we launched a major marketing campaign — Love, SeaTown — in July 2021, promoting everything going on downtown.