Seattle City Council expands support for local businesses by boosting business improvement areas in Ballard, downtown 

The Seattle City Council passed legislation today, sponsored by Councilmember Sara Nelson (Position 9 — Citywide), to bolster support for local businesses. With strong community support, the Council voted to renew and enhance two business improvement areas — the Ballard Improvement Area and the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area.   

“This is a shining example of what we can do when the community, businesses, and government all work together,” said Councilmember Nelson. “From downtown Seattle to downtown Ballard, these organizations are vital to our cities continued economic recovery. The overwhelming community support they have received during this process is proof of their impact.” 

What is a business improvement area? 

A business improvement area is a way for local business communities to come together and provide enhanced services to their area. In Seattle, they are created when businesses in an area elect to pay into a fund that is used to provide those services. They must also be approved by Council. Traditionally, a nonprofit is chosen to manage operations for the BIA and an advisory board comprised of rate payers is assembled to provide oversight.  

The renewed Ballard Improvement Area 

With today’s Council action, the Ballard Improvement Area will grow in size and expand the services it offers in the neighborhood. The Ballard Alliance, the nonprofit that manages it, plans to build on its past success and focus its work on, among other things: 

  • Public safety and public health 
  • Marketing and promotion 
  • Business development and retention 
  • Cleaning and the environment 
  • Activations of public spaces 
  • Legislative advocacy 

The campaign to renew the Ballard Improvement Area garnered nearly 65 percent support from ratepayers. Without the renewal, funding for these services would have gone away at the end of the year. Now, it’s been renewed for the next 12 years and won’t expire until 2035.   

The renewed Seattle Tourism Improvement Area (STIA) 

The STIA, managed by Visit Seattle, works to increase tourism to Seattle. Today’s renewal will make its funding more sustainable and allow it to better compete for tourism spending that is critical to downtown’s recovery.  

Historically, the STIA has only been allowed to advertise to leisure tourists. The renewal will allow it to advertise Seattle as a destination for meetings and conventions as well. That includes drawing people to Seattle’s brand new $2 billion convention center.  

The renewal will also help Seattle better compete with other tourist destinations. It changes the way the STIA is funded from a flat rate on hotel stays to a percentage-based model. This will make the charges more equitable and help boost funding for tourism marketing. Seattle is currently outspent in that area by many other major American cities. That includes other West Coast competitors like Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  


“This is a great day for the Ballard Community. The renewal of the Ballard BIA is not only a positive reflection of seven years of critical work on behalf of the Ballard community, it also represents a very positive future as the BIA will continue and expand upon its work to ensure that Ballard is a vital and thriving neighborhood for its property and business owners, residents and visitors. We are grateful for the leadership of Councilmember Nelson, who guided this legislation through committee, as well as the support and partnership from our Ballard District Councilmember Dan Strauss,” said Mike Stewart, Ballard Alliance Executive Director.   

We appreciate the support and partnership of our hotel community within the Seattle Tourism Improvement Area (STIA). Today’s vote expands STIA’s role in accelerating Seattle’s recovery with optimized market development in both the leisure and meetings & conventions markets”,  said Tammy Blount-Canavan, President & CEO of Visit Seattle

“This ordinance will enable Seattle to market and vie for business on a much greater level on par with our competitors, which in turn will bring more events to city. As a result, our regional economy gets a boost as event attendees dine downtown, stay in downtown hotels, shop and sightsee.” said Jeff Blosser, Seattle Convention Center President/CEO. 

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