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Can downtown Seattle bounce again? Group leaders focus on how metropolis can rebound after COVID

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Panelists from GeekWire’s Civic Conversations occasion on Thursday, clockwise from prime left: Gordon McHenry Jr., CEO of United Means King County; Chris Gregoire, CEO of Problem Seattle and former Washington state governor; Kris Hermanns, chief impression officer at Seattle Basis; and moderator Monica Nickelsburg, GeekWire contributing editor. (GeekWire Picture)

Even because the pandemic slows, one key unanswered query is whether or not everybody will be ok with visiting or working in downtown Seattle.

Since final March, the downtown core has suffered as places of work emptied in favor of distant work. Hundreds of staff who traveled into the town’s city core day by day are now not frequenting the native retailers, eating places, and bars. Tech firms headquartered downtown reminiscent of Zillow Group are permitting staff to earn a living from home indefinitely and implementing a distributed workforce mannequin.

For cities to be vibrant, they want a downtown inhabitants, with small companies being visited by staff every day, mentioned former Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. She expressed optimism about staff desirous to return to a bodily workplace.

“Now we have a youthful technology … that wishes to be in a vibrant metropolis,” she mentioned. “They wish to partake of the collegiality that they will discover of their workspace.”

Gregoire took half Thursday in a GeekWire digital occasion known as Civic Conversations: Tackling Public Coverage Challenges Throughout a COVID Economic system. She was joined by Gordon McHenry Jr., CEO of United Means King County, and Kris Hermanns, chief impression officer at Seattle Basis.

In its State of Downtown 2021 financial report in February, Downtown Seattle Affiliation mentioned downtown misplaced 45,000 jobs within the second quarter of 2020 and ended the yr with roughly 20,000 fewer jobs in comparison with the primary quarter.

It additionally reported 265 everlasting street-level enterprise areas in Seattle for the reason that begin of 2020, together with 183 downtown. 

The downtown space has struggled with public questions of safety, homelessness and extra — earlier than and in the course of the pandemic. And Gregoire, CEO of the Problem Seattle alliance, mentioned it has not been a welcome place for Black, Indigenous and other people of colour.

“Now we have to be an inclusive, open, welcoming neighborhood at massive,” Gregoire mentioned. “A few of our personal sector is prospering. An excessive amount of of it’s not. Our small companies, our women-owned, our minority-owned companies aren’t thriving. They usually’re form of the tradition, the spirit, the center of a neighborhood.”

She added: “Now we have to have the welcome mat out. We will’t afford a Seattle freeze,” referencing a time period associated to how locals can supposedly be somewhat frosty to newcomers.

The power homelessness disaster and questions of safety are main issues amongst employers and staff who work downtown particularly. The panel agreed that extra must be performed by way of addressing the core problems with the disaster reminiscent of psychological and behavioral well being and disaster intervention.

“We haven’t gotten past tents,” McHenry mentioned.

And Hermanns added that companies, elected leaders and officers who’ve made laborious selections in the course of the pandemic round key coverage points want that very same braveness in addressing homelessness.

Different subjects of observe from the dialogue included:

  • Vaccines: As firms start to make plans to return to places of work, even beneath a hybrid mannequin, Gregoire was requested whether or not huge employers ought to require COVID-19 vaccinations. She mentioned that members of Problem Seattle, together with leaders from Microsoft, Starbucks, T-Cell, Boeing and elsewhere mentioned they won’t require however will “completely encourage.” Gregoire mentioned employers put science, details and knowledge in entrance of staff and sources within the area such because the College of Washington and Fred Hutch talk the reality like few different locations.
  • Fairness: The pandemic exacerbated most of the societal issues that existed earlier than it began, reminiscent of points round fairness, affordability, racial division and entry to well being care and housing. McHenry mentioned it’s necessary as we come out of the disaster to “lock in” a few of the innovation and safety of important companies which have been instituted over the previous yr in order that now we have a “stronger, extra inclusive and supported neighborhood.”

Keep tuned for extra from at this time’s occasion in a while GeekWire.

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