By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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The agreement includes an incentive for businesses to relocate to downtown.
Council members approved the agreement 6-0, with Councilwoman Sissi Bruch absent and excused, Tuesday night after requiring the downtown association report back quarterly on the progress made in the work plan.
“I think this is a very positive step forward for the city and the downtown association,” Councilwoman Cherie Kidd said.
“I think they're listening to our concerns.”
The work plan has 10 objectives for the downtown association to complete in 2014, all with measurable goals, downtown association Executive Director Barb Frederick said.
These include increasing larger community involvement downtown, working to create stronger partnerships and increasing visibility and consumer awareness of downtown.
Nathan West, the city's community and economic development director, said city staff worked with the downtown association on the work plan in January and February.
Frederick said Wednesday the association will dedicate $2,000 of the $20,000 to pay start-up license fees, up to $200 per business, for businesses wanting to locate downtown.
Frederick said this effort will be part of addressing the number of vacant retail spaces, a main goal for the 2014 work plan.
Frederick estimated that downtown has about a 5 percent vacancy rate, measured in individual unoccupied businesses, up from between 1 percent and 2 percent over the past few years.
“I think it's definitely the vacancies that have had the most impact for the community,” Frederick said.
The work plan calls for the association to develop displays to attract potential occupant attention to downtown's empty storefronts by March, Frederick said.
“Really something more of a positive message,” Frederick said.
“Rather than 'for rent,' 'for rent,' 'for rent,' [something that says] this space is full of opportunity.”
Other work in this vein will include the downtown association working with property owners to better promote their unoccupied spaces.
The 9,213-square-foot Lincoln Theater became the most recent vacant space downtown last Sunday after its owners, Wenatchee-based Sun Basin Theatres, closed its doors.
City staff had recommended that the association produce one progress report in October, but Councilman Dan Gase said this would be too late to change anything if council members decided the work plan's goals were not met.
Council members elected to hear reports on the work plan during quarterly updates the association already gives the council.
“I don't think the time frame for reporting will be a problem,” Frederick said.
The council approved a 2014 budget that did not include money for the downtown association from the economic development fund for 2014. It had provided the downtown association $20,000 a year since 2006.
For this year, $20,000 for the downtown association will come from a business and occupation, or B&O, tax contribution from the city's electric utility and be paid back in part through the city's economic development fund, according to the city.
The electric utility will get a $15,000 B&O tax credit later this year and be repaid $5,000 from the city's economic development fund.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.