DSA Names Leslie Smith 2014 Downtown Champion

DSA surprises Leslie Smith with the Downtown Champion 2014 Award at the DSA Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Award presented at Downtown Seattle Association Annual Meeting

SEATTLE –The Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) has named Alliance for Pioneer Square Executive Director Leslie Smith as the recipient of the 2014 Downtown Champion Award at today’s DSA 56th Annual Meeting.

The award was presented in recognition of Smith’s ongoing commitment to Downtown Seattle and for her leadership in the revitalization of Pioneer Square, which this past year has welcomed hundreds of new residential units and numerous new businesses, including eight new bars and restaurants, with another seven expected to open in the coming year.

Leslie Smith, Executive Director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square, accepts DSA's 2014 Downtown Champion award.
Leslie Smith, Executive Director of the Alliance for Pioneer Square, accepts DSA’s 2014 Downtown Champion award.

Each year the DSA presents the Downtown Champion Award to an individual, company or organization that has made a significant impact in furthering DSA’s mission.

“Leslie personifies the title Downtown Champion,” said DSA President & CEO Kate Joncas. “She loves this city, loves her neighborhood and has made an unbelievable difference in the ongoing improvements to Downtown’s most historic neighborhood.  Leslie and her team have really elevated Pioneer Square.”

Last year’s “Downtown Champion,” Seattle developer Matt Griffin presented Smith with the award on stage at The 5th Avenue Theatre in front of an audience of more than 600 Downtown Seattle residents, business and community leaders. Also joining in the presentation were Alliance for Pioneer Square co-chair and president of Daniels Real Estate, LLC Kevin Daniels, fellow Alliance for Pioneer Square co-chair and former Seattle Mayor Charles Royer, and Mike Flood Vice President of Community Relations for the Seattle Seahawks  – presenting sponsor of the event.

Griffin, applauded Smith for her tireless effort and numerous successes already realized in spurring more economic and residential activity in Pioneer Square.

Daniels and Royer also praised Smith for her leadership and perseverance in the effort to rejuvenate Seattle’s oldest neighborhood.

Also participating in the award presentation were Pioneer Square residents Jen Kelly and Tija Petrovich, E. Smith Mercantile ower Kate Poole and Vulcan Community Relations Manager Phil Fujii.

Joining the Seattle Seahawks as DSA annual meeting sponsors were platinum sponsors Mack Urban, ShareBuilder 401k by Capital One and Vulcan Inc.; gold sponsors Amazon, Clise Properties, Comcast Business, Cushman & Wakefield| Commerce, GLY Construction, Helsell Fetterman, Howard S. Wright, McCullough Hill Leary, PS and Washington Holdings; media partners Seattle Channel and The Seattle Times; and venue sponsor The 5th Avenue Theatre.

In addition to Griffin, previous award recipients include: Tom Douglas (2012) Charles Royer (2011), Vulcan Real Estate and Seattle Parks Foundation (2010), FareStart (2007), Seattle Art Museum (2006), Plymouth Housing Group (2005) and Pike Place Market PDA (2004). In 2008 – the year of the DSA’s 50th anniversary – the award was presented to an initiative from each of the previous five decades including the Seattle World’s Fair, establishment of Seattle Housing Resources Group (now known as Bellwether Housing), Downtown’s cultural arts renaissance, Washington State Convention Center and Freeway Park, and Downtown’s Retail Core revitalization.

About DSA

Established in 1958, the Downtown Seattle Association (http://www.downtownseattle.com) is a member-based non-profit organization that champions a healthy, vibrant urban core. By advocating on behalf of business, non-profit, arts and residential interests throughout Downtown Seattle, DSA ensures that Downtown is a world-class place to live, work, shop and play.

All of the Above: What’s Behind the Revitalization of PSQ

The Washington Shoe Building with cranes at Stadium Place in the background

I’m the first to say that I’ve got the best gig in town.

People seem most intrigued by the “retail recruitment” aspect of my work for good reason. What’s not to like about being the neighborhood matchmaker? I get to connect brilliant retail and restaurant businesses with fabulous spaces in our beautiful historic district. Beat that.

It’s not about filling vacant street level spaces with whomever is ready to sign a lease. Far from it. It’s about finding those quality, intriguing, and relevant retail businesses that will make Pioneer Square an even better place to live, work, and visit. The recruitment strategy developed in 2012 with the help of community stakeholders suggested guidelines for a particular mix of restaurants, retail, and services. It also recommended leading the recruitment effort with food. 26 new storefront businesses opened in Pioneer Square in 2013, 15 of them restaurants. More are scheduled to open in this summer. Not a bad start, right?

What kinds of retail businesses are great candidates? Sometimes it’s an existing business ready to expand or try a new concept. Other times it’s a new venture that’s been the dream of someone working behind the lines for someone else. Sometimes it’s someone I’ve personally invited to take a walk around the neighborhood. Others find their way here all on their own. My goal is to generate a buzz about all that’s happening in our business district. When creative entrepreneurs are ready to “set up shop”, we want them to think about Pioneer Square. Regardless of how they get here, my job is then to help new businesses understand the vision of the neighborhood, help navigate the waters of administrative permits and approvals, connect them to whatever resources might be useful, introduce them to other businesses, and help them spread the word.

As the story of Pioneer Square’s revitalization gets more attention, I’m often asked “what was the real turning point?” Was it the restaurants? The apartments at Stadium Place? The tech companies? The King Street Station renovation? The streetcar? The waterfront? The stadiums? The ….?

Of course, you know the answer. It’s all of the above. And it takes time. Stadium Place, for example, was over ten years in the making. No one program, including the retail recruitment and business development program that fills my days, stands alone. If the Alliance for Pioneer Square hadn’t partnered with so many community stakeholders to weave a sustainable infrastructure based on a comprehensive neighborhood plan, the changes we’re buzzing about wouldn’t stand a chance.

For instance, if it hadn’t been for those long-fought battles:

  • The streetcar route would have ended in the Chinatown/International District.
  • Metered parking would still go until 8:00 PM.
  • After losing those hundreds of parking spaces under the viaduct, there would have been no mitigation dollars to subsidize short-term parking in four neighborhood garages to be cheaper than street parking – and fund free parking for First Thursday.
  • There’d be no marketing of the neighborhood. (Think maps, social media, and those awesome bus ads!)
  • There would be no advocate at the table to make certain our interests are represented in talks about the waterfront, street civility, transportation and public transit, parks, historic preservation, stadiums, housing, etc.

We’re not done. Not even close. We’ll continue to move things forward, welcoming all who care about the future of Pioneer Square to be part of the effort. I’ll continue to watch for cool retail to complement the anchors who have been here for decades, as well as the newest kids on the block.

I welcome all ideas and suggestions about possible retailers – or other kinds of cool uses – that you think might add to the magic of Pioneer Square. What have you seen in another neighborhood or what did you see during that trip to Florence, Prague, or Nashville that would be perfect here? I want to know. The coffee’s on me.

Oh, and be sure to sign up here to join me at the neighborhood Spring Clean on April 19.

 
KAREN TRUE
Director of Business Development
ALLIANCE FOR PIONEER SQUARE

Alliance for Pioneer Square Receives Community Advocacy Award

Historic Seattle Community Advocacy AwardYesterday evening on May 14, 2013, local preservationists gathered for Historic Seattle’s Fifth Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. The Alliance for Pioneer Square staff and two board members were in attendance to receive Historic Seattle’s 2013 Community Advocacy Award.

From the Preservation Awards program:

The Community Advocacy Award goes to the Alliance for Pioneer Square for its leadership in revitalizing Seattle’s first neighborhood. […] The Alliance’s broad and holistic approach to enhancing Pioneer Square allows the organization to draw upon the many inherent assets of the neighborhood to create a better and more vibrant place for everyone to work, live, and visit. The Alliance embraces Pioneer Square’s cultural heritage and historic buildings, recognizing the value of historic preservation and how it aids economic development, not hinder it.

Alliance board co-chair Kevin Daniels was also presented with the Community Investment Award for his work in preserving and reviving Seattle landmarks. In his acceptance speech, Kevin stated that when he and the Alliance board hired Leslie Smith to be the executive director of the organization, he worried about Leslie’s emphasis on community. Not sure if Leslie’s philosophy would be a good fit at first, Kevin said he later realized that community is the heart of preservation.

We are extremely proud to be presented with the Community Advocacy Award, and we congratulate our co-chair Kevin Daniels on his preservation achievements. Our work to connect the community and other key partners in reviving Pioneer Square is built on a solid foundation thanks to Leslie Smith’s advocacy for the community and the neighborhood.

 

Alliance Receives Historic Seattle’s Community Advocacy Award

The Alliance for Pioneer Square is honored to receive Historic Seattle’s Community Advocacy Award for our work within the Pioneer Square Historic District. The Fifth Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony will be held on Tuesday, May 14th.  Historic Seattle is the only non-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving Seattle and King County’s architectural legacy. The Alliance is happy to have formed a strong partnership with the organization, working to help preserve and protect Seattle’s first neighborhood.

Historic Seattle 5th Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony (PDF)

Historic Seattle 5th Annual Preservation Awards Ceremony