Mayor Harrell, under fire to get things done, expands downtown plan

Jun 28, 2023, 4:19 PM | Updated: Jun 29, 2023, 5:48 pm

Downtown Seattle Revitalization Plan...

With protesters shouting in the background, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell presents his new downtown revitalization plan. (Kate Stone)

(Kate Stone)

With mounting crime, homelessness, and drug and graffiti issues, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced a plan he hopes will turn things around Wednesday.

In a news conference at Westlake Center with protesters shouting in the background, Harrell was joined by hundreds of civic and community leaders to outline his vision of the future of downtown.

“Seattle’s Downtown is the heart of our city – a place that brings people together, creates jobs, drives innovation, and advances progress for our entire region,” said Harrell. “Downtowns across the country are facing significant challenges and change, and our Downtown Activation Plan (DAP) is a comprehensive approach to build a downtown of the future.”

Downtown protests

The small gathering of protesters wants the recent homeless sweeps to stop, but it is those sweeps that have contributed to cleaning up downtown.

People are still concerned about safety downtown

Despite the new series of initiatives, Harrell has been battling public perceptions that downtown Seattle is at an all-time low. The most recent incident involved the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in Belltown. The 34-year-old woman was in her car when she was apparently randomly shot multiple times.

Businesses such as Macy’s and Niketown have vacated the downtown core with the new Ben Bridge flagship store being the notable exception.

More on Downtown Seattle: March protests safety conditions after shooting

The DAP details legislative and regulatory initiatives, as well as new or revised programs. The full plan breaks down the programs into three timelines.  The city gave them unique names: Bold Actions, Near-term Initiatives, and Space Needle Thinking.

Bold Actions are initiatives that are underway or starting soon. Near-term initiatives are efforts that will happen over the next three years. Space Needle Thinking is big far-reaching initiatives.

DAP is available to the public at DowntownIsYou.com – as well as through a public-facing dashboard to track success over time.

Harrell said he will first bring proposals to the city council. The first set of legislative proposals will focus on the creation of more affordable housing, creating diverse opportunities for small businesses and workers, and expanding downtown activities for residents and visitors.

The mayor’s plan, in the (edited) words of the press release:

  • Rezone parts of Downtown: Update zoning policies to allow for taller residential buildings along 3rd Avenue from Union Street north to Stewart Street and east on Pike Street and Union Street toward 4th Avenue.
  • Encourage residential development: The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) and the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI) will continue the process of identifying potential changes to waive or modify development standards to facilitate office-to-residential conversions.
  • Support more food businesses Downtown: Temporarily waive fees for Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Street Use fees for temporary and year-long food trucks and carts and small-to-medium scale street and sidewalk events and activities open to the public.
  • Allow for expanded street use Downtown: Expand the range of street-level uses to include office, conference room, lab space, and residential building amenities, and expand allowed uses for street-level spaces and retail and recreation uses on all floors.
  • Invest in a cleaner and safer Downtown: Pass a supplemental budget legislation to expand Metropolitan Improvement District cleaning, safety and hospitality services this summer and fall to support major national and international events hosted Downtown.
  • Make Downtown safe and welcoming: Seattle Police Department will continue to arrest individuals who are distributing and selling illegal drugs and continue special operations to reduce gun violence Downtown and throughout the city.
  • Transform Downtown into a lively neighborhood where more people want to live: Create more and affordable housing, amenities and services to increase downtown residents.
  • Create a unique Downtown retail experience: Grow Seattle Restored to fill vacant storefronts with artists and small businesses. Create a new Small Business Navigation Team to help small businesses successfully navigate city processes and connect them to resources.
  • Make Downtown a top destination for Seattleites and visitors year round: Modify the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area to expand advertising for leisure and Convention Center marketing.

“The possibilities for Downtown are endless, and only through ongoing action and robust community partnership will we move beyond short-term improvements and advance our shared One Seattle vision for this integral part of our city,” Harrell said.

More: Downtown Activation Plan fact sheet

“With bold thinking and a commitment to progress, we will once again set our sights on an ambitious future for Downtown, creating a place where everyone can succeed and capturing the spirit of innovation, inclusivity, and forward-thinking that has defined Seattle for decades,” he added.

New ways to approach downtown revitalization

The Space Needle Thinking are stretch goals. These concepts reflect innovative thinking generated through the city’s engagement with civic, business, and neighborhood organizations and community conversations about significant civic projects that represent Seattle’s innovative spirit to create a world-class urban hub for future generations.

“Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan identifies specific actions that will build upon progress we’ve made in Downtown’s continued revitalization,” Jon Scholes, Downtown Seattle Association President and CEO, said.

“Creative uses for vacant spaces, support for small businesses, ensuring downtown is clean and welcoming for all are key ingredients for building upon our momentum,” he added. “Return to office, the number of residents, visitor traffic, and hotel demand are all moving up.”

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Mayor Harrell, under fire to get things done, expands downtown plan