How Seattle Plans to Leverage Public Resources to Protect Arts and Culture

The Cultural Space Agency, proposed in Seattle, would be a new type of public development authority, a city agency with a mission to preserve and create arts and culture in the face of gentrification.

November 10, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Seattle, Washington

Pioneer Square in Seattle, Washington. | Glenn R. McGloughlin / Shutterstock

Margo Vansynghel reports on an effort in Seattle to combat cultural displacement and gentrification by creating a 'mission-driven' real estate development company to "create, purchase, manage and lease property for arts and cultural spaces."

The arts and cultural spaces created by the new "Cultural Space Agency" could include galleries, bookstores, nonprofit dance companies, and cultural community centers," according to Vansynghel. "The new entity would likely also develop and manage a new 'Creative Economy Hub' on the second floor of the city-owned King Street Station."

If granted final approval from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council, the Cultural Space Authority will be governed as a public development authority (PDA), also known as a public corporation, according to Vansynghel. "The Office of Arts & Culture is dedicating $1 million to fund the startup costs for the next two years, $500,000 of which is earmarked in the 2021 budget currently in deliberation, and will add money to that pot through capital campaigns and philanthropy."

The article also includes some historical perspective on the move for the city to create a PDA—usually PDAs are reserved in Washington State for the preservation of historic areas, like Pioneer Square and the Chinatown-International District in Seattle.

"With the move, the city is following in the footsteps of King County, which established the 4Culture agency in late 2002 in reaction to the post-9/11 economic recession and funding cuts at King County’s arts offices," according to Vansynghel.

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