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City of Seattle, Grow America and JPMorgan Chase Celebrate First-in-the-Nation Business Property Ownership Program: BusinessCommunity Ownership Fund

BIPOC-owned design firm, La Union Studio, celebrates grand opening of new commercial space secured through the Business Community Ownership Fund

SEATTLE (March 19, 2024) – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell, joined the Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED), Grow America, and JPMorgan Chase to celebrate the opening of the first Business Community Ownership Fund (BCO Fund) participating business, La Union Studio. La Union Studio, a full-service interior design firm in the Mt. Baker neighborhood, celebrated this monumental milestone, made possible by the first-in-the-nation small business funding model that puts business owners on a pathway to long-term control and ownership of their commercial spaces.

“Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and while that growth has brought tens of thousands of new jobs and residents to our communities, it has also created economic pressures for our small business owners. Our One Seattle agenda is intentional in building a city where people of all incomes and occupations can live, and small businesses of all backgrounds can afford to operate,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Our pioneering spirit is the fuel behind this innovative economic development model that makes generational wealth building not just an idea—but a reality for our business owners. I applaud our Office of Economic Development for Space Needle thinking that reflects real input from small businesses and true leadership in empowering our local economy. I also thank Grow America and JPMorgan Chase for partnering with us to create tangible opportunities for business growth and success.”

The BCO Fund was launched in partnership with OED and Grow America through a combined $20 million investment, aimed at addressing the challenges of small business displacement and escalating commercial rents across Seattle neighborhoods. The Fund establishes real estate partnerships (LLCs) to acquire ground-level commercial properties within mixed-use buildings. Owners of participating businesses join the LLC, managed by Grow America, ensuring that commercial spaces are leased to them with stable and affordable occupancy costs, unaffected by market fluctuations. Moreover, the BCO Fund aids small business owners in remaining or re-establishing their presence in neighborhoods affected by economic shifts.

Through the BCO Fund, La Union Studio owners Sonia-Lynn Abenojar and Sergio Max Legon-Talamoni moved their offices from their home into their new commercial space at the ground level of a mixed-use building that was purchased from Mt. Baker Housing.

“We are thrilled to open the doors of our new location and welcome our community in,” Abenojar and Legon-Talamoni said. “It’s especially meaningful to us that we have a permanent, affordable space in a neighborhood where we have such deep roots.”

The BCO Fund addresses the disproportionate impact of rising commercial rents on neighborhoods such as the Chinatown-International District (CID), Central District, and Southeast Seattle, where small business owners, particularly people of color, immigrants, women, and LGBTQIA+ owners, face higher risks of displacement. CoStar data from 2022 shows average rents ranging from nearly $28 to $35 per square foot in these areas. Through the BCO Fund, participating businesses will secure commercial space at rates below market value, ensuring stability with no future increases, resulting in the ability to save thousands annually.

The Business Community Ownership Fund is part of a continuum of economic development strategies the City invests in to help close racial wealth gaps, interrupt displacement, expand equitable access to capital, drive commercial affordability and ownership, and provide culturally responsive business assistance.

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