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DSA Names Winner of 2016 City Maker Award, Reveals New Board Chair and Strategic Plan

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Transportation Choices Coalition Executive Director Shefali Ranganathan accepts 2016 City Maker award. Photo courtesy of the Downtown Seattle Association.

By Kristin Bentley

The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) held its 58th Annual Meeting at Amazon’s Doppler Meeting Center on Tuesday where Transportation Choices Coalition (TCC) was announced the winner of the 2016 City Maker award. Shefali Ranganathan, TCC’s executive director, accepted the award on its behalf.

“A vibrant, healthy city provides people with options to get where you need to go,’ said Ranganathan. “Sound Transit 3 is the most important transportation measure of our lifetime in this region. We’re going to need the support, time and resources of everyone in this room to push this forward.”

The downtown market is growing at a record pace

Prior to this year’s meeting, member-based nonprofit organization DSA recognized and awarded a Downtown Champion. However, the new award of City Maker ties in with DSA’s new strategic plan that will focus on three main priorities, which are to create an urban experience, raise economic competitiveness and to promote transportation and access. Led by over 700 member organizations and over 2,200 resident members, the association focuses on making downtown a better place to work, live, shop and visit through public policy advocacy, economic development and marketing. It has also played a fundamental role in cleaning up the city’s parks and streets.

“The downtown market is growing at a record pace,” said Jon Scholes, president and CEO for DSA. “We have more visitors, residents, workers and families experiencing downtown than ever before. This pace of change is creating new demands for better design, higher quality public spaces and more recreation opportunities.”

Former Board Chair Mark Barbieri, the executive vice president of Washington Holdings, says DSA has made a lot of progress over the last year, which includes the development of its new five-year strategic plan that lays out a vision for downtown as everybody’s neighborhood. “We see a downtown that’s the region’s center for innovation and culture,” he added. “One that’s vibrant, welcoming, clean and safe. A downtown that offers something for everyone, and is easy to get to and through. We envision a downtown that’s not just one place, but as a collection of unique neighborhoods, each maintaining its own authentic character, and together creating an active and diverse urban environment.”

In the next five years, DSA will play a lead role in the development of a 20-year transportation vision for downtown that includes a significant investment in additional light rail, says Barbieri. Another one of its goals is working towards increasing market rate and affordable housing by partnering with the nonprofit housing community, environmentalists and labor and social justice advocates. Barbieri says the organization will also be involved in advocating for the site of a downtown school.

“More families are choosing to live downtown, employment remains strong, development is robust, new investments are being made to creating new public spaces, and companies are choosing to locate and grow in the heart of our downtown,” said Barbieri. “We’ve seen a number of companies make that move to downtown over the last few years and several expand their footprints, sparking dramatic and positive change.”

DSA’s new board chair, announced at Tuesday’s meeting, Clise Properties President & COO Richard Stevenson, added that for almost 60 years the organization has led the way through much of Seattle’s growth. “There is no such thing as too much housing. Once you build housing, people will always live in it. If you mess up and build too much, it just means that rents will become more affordable. We just have to build more housing in order to keep influx with the jobs that are coming into town.”