U District Small Business Vulnerability Study

In February 2017, the City Council of Seattle "unanimously approved an upzone that [would] pave the way for the University District to become Seattle's next high-rise neighborhood."1

This decision was made in keeping with the City Council's goals to help developers create more affordable housing in the areas that need it.

The consequences of intense development in the area must be carefully considered, as it increases the risk of displacement for the community's permanent residents and the small mom-and-pop stores which serve them.

To assist the city in understanding the potential risks, Gayle Nowicki, a local small business owner, along with a group of other small business owners and community members, set out to measure the potential impact, and to gauge how small businesses along the "Ave" viewed the upzone, while collecting general census data.

In the summer of 2017 the small businesses of the U-district banded together and, with the help of Steinbrueck Urban Strategies, developed and produced an impact study of what the development of the Ave would do to small businesses in along the "Ave" strip.

The purpose of the study was to "... better inform the city, small businesses and local community on issues affecting small businesses and nonprofits in the Univeristy District."3

The study was conducted over a series of weeks by volunteers who went door-to-door along the "Ave" interviewing small business owners and managers about their business.2

The results were unexpected.

  • Most (85%) of the small businesses interviewed were managed by an owner-operator, meaning that the owner had an active role in the small business.
  • 65% of the businesses surveyed were owned by either a woman or a minority
  • 70% of the businesses interviewed have minority employees
  • only 10% of the businesses own their commercial space, with nearly 15% of the businesses being on a month-to-month rent cycle.

If you would like to learn more please feel free to email us at info@udistrict.biz, or to check out the document itself:

1"Seattle Council to vote today on big U-district Upzone", Danial Beekman, Seattle Times staff reports, Seattle Times, Originally published February 21, 2017. Updated April 13, 2017
2 Special thanks to Cory Crocker, Doug Campbell, Lisa Von Trutha, Devon Gonzalez-Yoxtheimer, Megan Ingalls, and the other volunteers who made this possible.

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