June 27, 2002

The six million dollar mitigation

  • The South Downtown Foundation works to ensure the new stadium will be a boon to surrounding neighborhoods.
    South Downtown Foundation

     Seattle Police Department Neighborhood Office
    Photo by Michael Young © YAM Studio
    The new Seattle Police Department Neighborhood Office along First Avenue has enhanced public safety in Pioneer Square.

    Seahawks Stadium is the latest addition to an impressive $1 billion sports-and-entertainment complex that is emerging in Seattle’s South Downtown.

    In addition to Seahawks Stadium, this complex includes Safeco Field, home of Seattle Mariners baseball, a 325,000-square-foot exhibition center and two major parking facilities.

    Although significant investment in professional sports facilities is a trend that has sparked similar developments in other major cities across the country, the Seahawks Stadium development has spawned a unique approach to mitigating the impacts of this mammoth development on surrounding communities.

    The South Downtown Foundation was established in 1999 to manage $6 million in mitigation funding contributed by Paul Allen’s First & Goal, the developer of the new stadium and exhibition center.

    The stadium’s neighbors

    Seattle’s emerging sports complex in South Downtown is surrounded by three distinct neighborhoods. Pioneer Square, a large historic district located just north of the stadium complex, is defined by specialty retail shops, restaurants, galleries and tourist-oriented businesses.

    The Chinatown/International District is another large historic district that lies to the east of the new stadiums. This diverse neighborhood was settled jointly by Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, African Americans and Vietnamese, and currently serves as the economic, cultural and historic center for the Pacific Northwest’s Asian Pacific American community.

    The third South Downtown neighborhood, the Duwamish Manufacturing and Industrial Center, is an immense district encompassing over 4,000 businesses and 70,000 employees. The largest industrial area in the Pacific Northwest, the Duwamish area is an important transportation crossroads for international trade, rail and freight.

    The neighborhood agenda

    Several years before construction commenced on the new football stadium, leaders of the three neighborhoods, with the assistance of consultants retained by the developer, identified their collective needs to address the impacts of the new stadium on their communities.

    The resultant document, called the Neighborhood Action Agenda, is a detailed list of programs and projects in the following areas: neighborhood marketing, business assistance, public spaces improvements, public safety and clean up initiatives, affordable housing, and parking and transportation.

    Our progress

    The opening of Seahawks Stadium marks three years of foundation operations in South Downtown. Over $3.3 million has been awarded by the foundation so far to support grant proposals and foundation initiatives. The foundation focused its efforts and achieved early success in working with neighborhood organizations on the following priorities:

    Dragon sculpture
    Photo by Michael Young © YAM Studio
    Dragon sculptures at key gateways in the International District identify the district for visitors.

    Improving public spaces: To preserve neighborhood identity and improve pedestrian spaces, the foundation allocated funds to install dragon sculptures in the Chinatown/International district and to support public spaces improvements in conjunction with future redevelopment of the historic King Street Station.

    Support also was provided to assist with the relocation and renovation of the Hat ‘n’ Boots roadside icons in the Duwamish. To assist community leaders in the prioritization of public spaces improvements, the foundation awarded grants to support a parks improvements plan in Pioneer Square and an urban design master plan for the Chinatown/International District.

    Neighborhood marketing: The foundation developed creative radio and television campaigns with the slogan “South Downtown — Some Neighborhoods Have It All.” The foundation and neighborhood organizations also designed an attractive dining and entertainment guide to inform Seahawks season ticket holders and other sports fans about neighborhood restaurants and entertainment establishments within a 10-minute walk of the stadium.

    With technical programming support from Paul Allen’s Web site design team at Vulcan Inc., the foundation also launched a network of innovative interactive media terminals that were placed in high pedestrian-traffic areas to promote area businesses to sports fans, visitors and tourists.

    Building organizational capacity: Technical assistance and funding were provided to assist several Pioneer Square neighborhood organizations in consolidating their leadership and resources into one lead organization. This merger reduced duplication of effort, improved accountability and streamlined the neighborhood’s decision-making process.

    The foundation also supported the consolidation of two organizations in the Duwamish area and awarded a grant to explore the feasibility of establishing a transportation management association to focus on the area’s number one concern — the transportation impacts of stadium and other development on freight mobility.

    Public safety improvements: Carroll Buracker & Associates, a national law enforcement consultant, was retained by the foundation to work with the neighborhoods and the 20-plus providers of police and security services in South Downtown on a holistic plan to coordinate resources and improve public safety.

    Short-term accomplishments include formation of a public-private partnership to provide supplemental police services, completion of a comprehensive study of lighting needs in South Downtown, and establishment of a new Seattle Police neighborhood office in Pioneer Square along the First Avenue retail corridor.

    The foundation also retained a recently retired former Seattle Police assistant chief to coordinate public safety improvements and to maximize the delivery of police and security services in South Downtown.

    A unique model

    The early success of the South Downtown Foundation can be attributed to early planning, objective management of mitigation funds and an open grant-making process.

    Planning and consensus-building with neighborhood representatives began several years prior to the scheduled opening of the new football stadium.

    Strong civic leadership on the foundation board, guidance from neighborhood representatives and experienced urban development professionals on the foundation staff have enabled the foundation to make objective, sound decisions in allocating limited resources for maximum impact.

    J. Todd Graham is executive director of the South Downtown Foundation. Prior to relocating to Seattle in 1999, he served for 16 years as executive director of a consortium of institutions and businesses on the eastern edge of downtown Cleveland.

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