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U District Vitality Grants

UDP Invests $5M in U District Small Businesses

Through a generous grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce in 2023, The U District Partnership was able to invest nearly $5 million in over 140 small businesses resulting in hundreds of improvements to U District facades, signage, awnings, lighting, outdoor dining and other key facility components. This one-time investment has had a demonstrable impact on the vibrancy of the neighborhood and the diversity of small businesses that make up the U District. 

Impacts of this unprecedented investment in our business community

141 total U District businesses received grant funding this year.

86% of the U District businesses who received funding are Woman- (51%) and/or BIPOC- (68%) owned.

69% of businesses awarded are food/bev; 23% are retail.

The average award amount for tenant improvement grants was $34,359.94.

Over 20 businesses were awarded funds to build outdoor dining structures and seating areas, creating a total of over 450 new outdoor dining seats in the U District.

Before & After

Over 140 businesses received critical funding to improve their facades and facilities. See the impact that this one-time investment has had on the look and feel of the U District.

Pho Shizzle

With years of serving the U District, Pho Shizzle is known for its delicious pho and welcoming team. Updates through the U District Vitality Grant allowed for co-owners Mandy Truong and Julia Tran to not only renovate their storefront facade with improved signage and a freshly painted exterior, but also add outdoor seating to welcome customers year-round.

Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery

“After operating in the U District for seven years, this grant has been a game changer. This funding will prepare me for the next seven and beyond. Even just adding the word “espresso” onto my new awning immediately doubled our coffee business.”
– Lois Ko, Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery

About the Grants

In 2023, the Washington State Department of Commerce released a $32.5M Small Business Innovation Fund with the express aim of supporting small businesses, particularly those impacted by the pandemic and owned by women and people of color. Leveraging its strong connection to the U District business community, UDP successfully secured $5M in funding – overcoming an unprecedented number of applications (127 applications, total ask of $252M) and acquiring 46% of the total funds ($10.8M) allocated to King County.

Through this unprecedented investment, UDP implemented three programs designed to support current U District businesses and those looking to expand/relocate to Seattle’s fastest growing neighborhood – enabling them to make hundreds of one-time strategic investments that will have lasting impacts for their appearance and operations, as well as for the U District. 

Storefront Cleaning Grant

Up to $1,000 for graffiti removal, pressure washing, and additional facade cleaning services.

Tenant Improvement Grant

Up to $200,000 for fixed asset improvements including exterior/interior rehabilitation, outdoor dining infrastructure, and specialized equipment.

Vacant Spaces Revival Grant

Up to $100,000 for fixed asset improvements necessary to occupy a vacant ground-floor commercial space in the U District. 

What Local Leaders are Saying

Mike Fong, Washington State Commerce

“Small businesses define the unique character of each of our downtown neighborhoods and provide opportunities to build generational wealth for many families,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “The spirit of optimism and resilience these business owners show every day strengthens communities. As they navigate challenging conditions in the post-pandemic economy, we are committed to supporting pathways to success through a spectrum of services at every stage, from startup through equitable access to working capital for growth.”

Mayor Bruce Harrell, City of Seattle

“Seattle’s small businesses help create a vibrant local economy and are critical to building thriving neighborhoods and creating generational wealth. This funding and support from the Washington State Department of Commerce will make a big difference for U District small businesses,” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell. “This is a smart, strategic investment that will complement our efforts and shared commitment to giving entrepreneurs and small businesses, particularly those owned by women and people of color, the tools to build growing and successful enterprises.”

Markham McIntyre, Office of Economic Development

“Teamwork makes the dream work, and that’s especially true when the public sector works together to support our small businesses. UDP’s on-the-ground leadership plus investments from the City and the state have helped our incredible small, diverse businesses thrive in the U District. This is an exciting example of the impact of collaboration and partnership to meet the needs of our local businesses,” shared Markham McIntyre, Director Seattle Office of Economic Development.

From The U District Partnership

Don Blakeney, The U District Partnership

“Students and professors will feel like they are returning to an entirely new neighborhood this fall quarter with bright new facades and signage now adorning their favorite businesses along the Ave,” said Don Blakeney, Executive Director of the U District Partnership. “These grants have been a once-in-a-generation chance to catalyze investment and build momentum for one of Seattle’s most dynamic neighborhoods.”

Daniel Lokic, The U District Partnership

“It was incredibly inspiring to see the impact these grants were able to make across our community,” shared Daniel Lokic, Economic Development Manager for the U District Partnership. “Not only did this funding enhance storefront facades and allow businesses to purchase critical equipment – it provided the opportunity for businesses to invest in outdoor dining structures, increasing seating capacity and extending their brand into the public realm.”

Before & After Images