Thanks to the tireless efforts of neighborhood advocates, Seattle‘s proposed budget for 2014 includes an $875,000 boost for the Chinatown-International District (CID). The city budget proposal is currently under city council review.
“I do hope that [the city] continues to support the neighborhood as they have historically,” said Joyce Pisnanont, program director at Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda), citing city programs currently benefitting the CID such as Only in Seattle, which provides marketing and technical assistance to neighborhood businesses. “I think our city councilmembers get how important our neighborhood is as a whole.”
Over the past two years, the neighborhood has experienced the enduring and combined economic blow of First Hill Streetcar construction, Yesler Terrace redevelopment, the loss of King County Metro’s Downtown Seattle Free Ride Zone and neighborhood parking difficulties. The losses are felt beyond neighborhood businesses, said Pisnanont. Community leaders and city officials hope the $875,000 will help mitigate the residual economic impact felt broadly throughout the neighborhood.
“It’s incumbent upon us as a community to come together and look out for each other,” said Pisnanont. “It’s not just about the small businesses, but it’s also about the seniors and the social service agencies.”
In addition to a 20 to 30 percent drop in business revenue this past year since First Hill Streetcar construction first began in the CID, social services agencies in the neighborhood have observed a substantial drop in their program participation. At one major immigrant assistance group in the neighborhood, their summer youth program experienced a 30 percent drop while their senior service participation dropped by at least 70 percent, noted Pisnanont.
If city officials approve the $875,000 neighborhood investment, $580,000 of it would fund business development efforts and street improvement projects, while the remaining $295,000 would be spent on a feasibility study evaluating how local health care service expansion would meet the needs of a growing elderly community that currently make up 55 percent of the CID’s population.
These type of neighborhood investments are not unprecedented, says Pisnanont. The city has been known to give additional funds to neighborhoods that experience significant disruption from city construction projects or activities, according to Seattle’s Office of Economic Development. This particular CID investment from the city recognizes the neighborhood’s diverse offerings of social service agencies, businesses and community groups, supporting the neighborhood’s “ability to grow and flourish on many different levels,” said Pisnanont.
As attested by longtime neighborhood advocates like “Uncle Bob” Santos, the neighborhood’s survival and growth throughout the decades would not have been possible without working with the city and pushing for public dollars.
Seattle’s next public hearing on the city budget will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 at Garfield High School — on opportunity to shape final 2014 budget decisions deliberated by Seattle City Council.