Detailed action plan includes continuum of initiatives balancing immediate and short-term steps with long-term systemic changes designed to drive progress and bring Seattle’s Downtown into a new age.
Seattle – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced details of Seattle’s comprehensive Downtown Activation Plan – a bold and ambitious roadmap to revitalize and transform Downtown Seattle now and for the future. Joined by hundreds of civic, community, business, social service, and neighborhood leaders from the core of Downtown in Westlake Park, Mayor Harrell elevated critical ongoing efforts and detailed a path of action to create the Downtown of the future.
“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 Mayor Harrell. “Downtowns across the country are facing significant challenges and change, and our Downtown Activation Plan is a comprehensive approach to build a Downtown of the future that lives up to our One Seattle values, revitalizing our city center rather than trying to recreate the past. Downtown runs on people – and this effort is centered on reimagining what this collection of neighborhoods can look like – a place where families, small businesses, workers, neighbors and visitors of all kinds can live, work, learn, and grow together.”
The Downtown Activation Plan (DAP) details legislative, regulatory, and programmatic efforts the City will pursue – building on previously announced actions – to foster a more vibrant, inclusive, and resilient hub for residents, workers, and visitors. The full Downtown Activation Plan encompasses three timelines: Bold Actions – initiatives that are underway or starting soon, Near-term Initiatives – efforts that will happen over the next three years, and Space Needle Thinking – visionary possibilities for the future. The Downtown Activation Plan is available to the public at DowntownIsYou.com – as well as through a public-facing dashboard to track success over time.
Critical for advancing DAP priorities and Downtown’s future is a suite of legislative proposals Mayor Harrell will send to the City Council. The first set of legislative proposals would allow for the creation of more affordable housing, create diverse opportunities for small businesses and workers, and expand fun and exciting Downtown activities for residents and visitors of all ages. More information on these proposals is available in the Downtown Activation Plan Fact Sheet, and highlights of Mayor Harrell’s legislation include:
Rezone Parts of Downtown
- Update zoning policies to allow for taller residential buildings along 3rd Ave from Union Street north to Stewart Street and east on Pike Street and Union Street toward 4th Avenue. This will allow for high-rise residential development with incentives for providing childcare and education facilities.
Encourage Residential Development
- 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.
- Waive State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requirements for all residential projects. Following up on recent State legislation, SEPA review will no longer be required on any projects in the City of Seattle that include a residential component, significantly speeding up permitting for Downtown projects.
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.
- Increase Floor Area Ratio levels in Belltown to increase hotel development, creating permanent jobs and providing more places for tourists and visitors to stay.
Invest in a Cleaner and Safer Downtown
- Pass 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.
The DAP framework is centered around seven core goals, and today’s announcement details specific actions currently underway and others to be implemented over the next three years that support improved outcomes for 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.
- Launch a contingency management drug abatement program, establish an opioid overdose recovery center, and open a Crisis Care Center for adults – and potentially one for youth – as part of a regional network of five total centers made possible by voter approval of King County’s behavioral health levy in April.
- Improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, including Pike Pine Streetscape improvements.
- Offer graffiti removal services on private property with owner permission, and work with Washington State Department of Transportation to remove graffiti from Downtown exit signs and along I-5 and I-90.
Transform Downtown into a lively neighborhood where more people want to live
- Create more and affordable housing, amenities, and services to increase downtown residents.
- Bring satellite farmers markets into Downtown neighborhoods.
- Activate neighborhood alleyways to create more pedestrian-friendly experiences.
- Support the strategic vision defined by King County Executive Dow Constantine to redesign the County’s Downtown campus.
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 place where people want to work and that reflects the future of our economy
- Convene public and private sector leaders to share strategies and drive effective return-to-office and hybrid work policies.
- Incentivize the development of childcare and education services Downtown by allowing greater building heights when these facilities are included in new buildings.
- Develop a “life at night” agenda to activate Downtown businesses in the late-night hours.
Celebrate Downtown Seattle’s arts, culture, sports, and entertainment
- Implement a proactive special events strategy to bring more events downtown and hire leaders to promote this vision and advance Seattle’s creative economy.
- Support community-driven activations and cultural celebrations Downtown.
- Explore ways to bring Bumbershoot events Downtown.
- Create more murals and other art installations throughout Downtown.
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.
- Improve wayfinding and install a network of digital navigation kiosks Downtown.
- Partner with Seattle Public Schools to build a new Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center.
- Open a Tribal Interpretive Center at Waterfront Park and connect Downtown neighborhoods to the Waterfront.
Create a healthy, resilient, and green Downtown
- Pilot a green and healthy street by partially closing Pike Street between First and Second Avenues for pedestrians only.
- Finish improvements to Downtown parks and complete the full construction of the Seattle Waterfront by 2025, with free family-friendly programming.
- Further explore the lidding of I-5 to create park spaces and pedestrian connections from Capitol Hill to Downtown.
- Pass a Building Emissions Performance Standard and pilot low-pollution neighborhoods Downtown by establishing low-emission delivery opportunities.
These items build on actions the City has already taken, including MID expansion, City Hall Park reopening and restoration, an office space conversion competition, relaunching the Graffiti Abatement program for private property, and convening a Fentanyl Systems Work Group. Read the other specific near-term actions that advance the plan’s goals in the Downtown Activation Fact Sheet.
“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,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “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.”
The Downtown Activation Plan presents ambitious Space Needle Thinking concepts that reimagine what Seattle’s Downtown can be. 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.
The concepts serve as a starting point for a broader conversation incorporating public feedback and exploring viability and funding options with philanthropic and private partners. Ideas include a defined linear Arts, Culture, and Entertainment District; year-round indoor/outdoor athletic and play facility; illuminating Westlake as a center for civic engagement; lidding I-5 to create an urban forest; and a Makers Campus to support experiential learning and the future of work. You can read about these ideas and more at DowntownIsYou.com/future.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
Councilmember Andrew Lewis, District 7 (Downtown, Pioneer Square)
“Our efforts to revitalize Downtown are already bearing fruit, as people Downtown can enjoy world-class art experiences in brand new galleries and storefronts, eat lunch and listen to music in beautiful City Hall Park, and thank the teams working round-the-clock to make our city center cleaner, greener, and safer,” Councilmember Andrew Lewis, who represents Downtown, said. “Now is the time to accelerate Downtown’s recovery and seize this moment with transformative legislation. I have been hard at work with Mayor Harrell to develop legislation to expand opportunities for entrepreneurs, workers, and families Downtown and will be proud to fight for the legislative package announced today.”
Councilmember Sara Nelson, Chair of Council’s Economic Development Committee, Position 8
“I applaud Mayor Harrell and Director McIntyre for putting forward a bold and ambitious plan to activate downtown Seattle and I’m fully committed to supporting the legislation and investments that come through my committee to implement it.”
Councilmember Dan Strauss, Chair of Council’s Land Use Committee, District 6
“Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan addresses everything from revitalizing buildings and updating zoning, to increasing vibrancy and community connectivity, to addressing the public safety issues we all see and experience. Downtown’s success is bigger than any of us: it is bigger than me, our own city, and our region because Downtown Seattle is our State’s economic engine and face to the world. Downtown Seattle is home to award-winning restaurants, world-class theaters and museums, a new waterfront and convention center, and Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan sets in motion the step-by-step actions needed to make Downtown the vibrant neighborhood we all know it can be.”
Markham McIntyre, Director of Seattle Office of Economic Development
“Downtown is the economic engine for our city, region, and state. The best economic development play we can make right now is getting Downtown humming again, and this plan lays out a blueprint to support small and diverse businesses, attract more workers, visitors, and residents Downtown, and spur new residential development. It’s going to be very exciting watching this plan go into action and rally people to support and experience Downtown.”
Katrina Caron, Senior Early Learning Director, Northwest Center Kids
“Northwest Center Kids Early Learning has been part of downtown Seattle since 2010. Our diverse, disability-inclusive student and staff population reflects the community and culture integral to Downtown. We are thrilled to be part of the Downtown Activation Plan to foster a more vibrant and sustainable Seattle.”
Laron Daniels, Co-Owner, Self-Made Couture
“I’m 110% committed to Mayor Harrell’s vision that will accelerate the revitalization of our downtown community. As Co-Owner of Self-Made Couture, I and my team are completely bought in that downtown is the right place for our business and our future, and our actions show this.”
Jon Scholes, Downtown Seattle Association President & CEO
“Mayor Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan identifies specific actions that will build upon progress we’ve made in downtown’s continued revitalization. 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. Return to office, the number of residents, visitor traffic and hotel demand are all moving up. And with continued attention and dedicated resources called out in the plan, we hope safety will continue to improve downtown. An overwhelming majority of Seattle residents clearly understand the important relationship between downtown and the rest of the city. This plan will bolster the health and vibrancy of both.”
Rachel Smith, President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
“This Downtown Activation Plan is great news for our city – it is a proactive approach that is going to result in positive community transformation. And today’s announcement is not just a collection of initiatives and activities – it is a road map to generating economic activity, improving our quality of life, and reactivating our downtown core – and we thank the Mayor for his vision and leadership. The plan includes bold proposals: cutting red tape, regulation changes, zoning changes, and making downtown a welcoming place for visitors, and we encourage the City Council to pass this legislation as quickly as possible.”
Tammy Blount-Canavan, President and CEO, Visit Seattle
“Both convention and leisure visitors are a critical element in the health of downtown, contributing $7.3 billion in annual visitor spending to our local economy. We are honored to have been a part of the development of Mayor Bruce Harrell’s Downtown Activation Plan which provides a path to ensuring a vibrant, welcoming, and safe downtown for all. Destinations thrive when they lean in to first help establish a great place to live, which in turn creates an amazing place to visit.”