Downtown Everett Association soliciting ideas for long-term future
EVERETT — A pet store.
A butcher shop.
Ideas for a new-feel downtown flowed freely among the 50 or so people who gathered recently at Narrative Coffee.
They came at the invitation of the Downtown Everett Association (DEA), which wants to reshape the downtown core via the Main Street America program.
If you’ve never heard of Main Street America, you’re not alone.
“It’s everywhere, but nobody knows about it,” said DEA president Patrick Hall, who “accidentally” learned of the program in his role as a member of the city’s Historical Commission.
Founded in 1980, Main Street has helped more than 2,000 U.S. communities revitalize older and historic commercial districts through a combination of strategic planning and economic incentives.
It’s been implemented in 34 other Washington state cities — including Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Puyallup and Kent — but not yet here.
“I thought, ‘this is exactly what Everett needs,” Hall said.
The city became an affiliate member with Main Street in December. Once accredited, it will be eligible for a tax credit incentive program that allows donors to claim a 75 percent tax credit for either their Business and Occupation or Public Utility taxes for private contributions to nonprofits such as the DEA.
Businesses across the state may also claim a 50 percent tax credit for contributions to the Main Street Trust Fund, which can be tapped by accredited Main Street communities.
Dana Oliver, the DEA executive director, told the crowd that Main Street communities reinvested a collective $4.39 billion in 2018 from public and private sources. She said each dollar spent that year through Main Street America provided a whopping $26.49 return on investment.
The program requires a two-year wait before an affiliate city can become a full member eligible for the tax credit program.
In the interim, Oliver said, “There are some heavy lifts we need to be doing.”
They include compiling and logging both comprehensive data on downtown commerce, as well as input from business owners and interested citizens.
With only two-and-a-half paid staff members, the downtown association needs help. Twelve volunteers stepped forward at the visioning meeting.
Maxwell Mooney, Narrative Coffee owner and a DEA board member, has already started some of the lifting.
According to data Mooney shared at the visioning forum, sixty-one percent of the people who live within five minutes of downtown are millennials, Mooney said. Sixteen percent have started families, and 12 percent have lived in the city their entire lives.
Mooney added that $397 million was spent on retail last year within a 15-minute drive of downtown, but that only $164 million of that total was spent in the downtown core.
“We want to ensure that more of that money stays here,” he said.
In a DEA visioning survey that drew about 120 responses, two-thirds of the respondents wanted more businesses downtown, and also more varied businesses, according to the association’s website.
Fifty-nine percent of respondents said art is important to downtown Everett, and almost half indicated they want to preserve the city’s “cultural and physical historic character.”
The next steps for the downtown group are to keep compiling data and exploring what other Main Street cities have accomplished through the program.
“This is going to be work,” Oliver told those at the visioning meeting. “This is not going to be an easy ride.”
Alice Clark has advice for their journey.
Clark is executive director of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership. Her city has been a Main Street America member since 2015.
She said Bellingham’s partnership initially took a similar survey, then organized community-led focus groups centered on key areas or projects.
“In the focus group they asked the constituents to create a work plan around the project along with a budget and timeline,” Clark said by email. “They also had one board member at each table keeping things on track. So every step of the way they were engaging the community, but also giving them some boundaries…I think that is a great way to do some strategic planning.
“Also remember,” she said, “it’s okay to start on one direction and need to change course if required. It doesn’t mean you failed, it just means you got more info and used it to adjust your plans.”
If you’d like to get involved, call the Downtown Everett Association at 425-258-0700, find the association on Facebook or visit www.downtowneverettwa.org and follow the menu link for the “Get Involved” page.
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