Business Incentives

Why Do Business in Downtown Seattle?


The Downtown Seattle Association has partnered with the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development and other local economic development organizations to support business growth in Downtown Seattle.  We offer assistance to businesses through our own market research, as well as by helping businesses navigate city services. Some of the programs we can connect you with include:

As part of this partnership, staff members conduct outreach visits throughout the year to Downtown technology, retail, hospitality and professional service businesses (Read the 2014 summary report here). For more information on any of these programs or to schedule an outreach visit, please contact our business development team at (206) 623-0340.


Located in one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the country[i], Downtown’s businesses are highly accessible. Many, including those at the iconic Pike Place Market, are within a “ride-free” transit zone. Downtown’s workforce enjoys a wide range of retail amenities including over 1,100 retail stores and nearly 1,000 restaurants, bars and cafes[ii].  Over four out of five of these establishments are locally owned[iii], giving Downtown a unique mix of options. With more than 40 percent of the taxable retail sales market share in the City of Seattle[iv], Downtown offers great opportunities for retail businesses.

In addition to food and retail establishments, Downtown is a regional hub for arts, entertainment, sports and tourism. Seattle has the highest number of arts related businesses per capita[v]. Downtown hosts some of the largest festivals and events including Bumbershoot, the Northwest Folklife Festival, Seafair and the Family 4th fireworks celebration on Lake Union.  Each year, millions of guests attend arts and educational exhibits, performing arts shows and professional sports games Downtown.  Seven cruise lines bring nearly a million visitors. Several hundred Convention Center conventions and events bring hundreds of thousands more visitors to Downtown Seattle. For overnight guests, downtown offers 13,760 hotel rooms, the highest concentration of rooms in the region.


Downtown Seattle is the region’s transit hub. Four transit agencies serve Downtown Seattle with a total of 160 bus routes Downtown[vi].  In addition, Sound Transit operates Link Light Rail between Downtown and SeaTac International Airport and commuter trains from points both north to Everett and south to Tacoma. Water taxis and ferries offer access to Downtown from West Seattle, Bainbridge Island and Bremerton.

Biking is also a popular way to get Downtown. Downtown offers 31 miles of bike lanes and Downtown buildings have the infrastructure to support 6,035 bicycles[vii]. In addition, Downtown sidewalk racks offer capacity for an additional 5,987 bicycles[viii].

Drivers have access to approximately 90,000 off street parking spaces and 5,000 metered on-street spaces Downtown[ix].

Downtown Seattle Association also partners with Commute Seattle to assist businesses with exploring their commute options. For more information, please contact Commute Seattle.


Downtown Seattle has the highest concentration of jobs in the region. Nearly half the total jobs in Seattle are located there[x]. Downtown is home to some of the world’s most well-known companies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,, Starbucks and Nordstrom.

Downtown companies have access to a highly educated workforce. More than half the residents of Seattle have a bachelor’s degree or higher[xi]. Seattle also regularly ranks as the nations “most literate” city[xii]. Seattle is a magnet for top talent from outside the region as well[xiii],[xiv]. In 2011, Seattle ranked seventh in the world based on the city’s economy and labor attractiveness[xv]. Individuals with advanced degrees are one of Downtown’s fastest growing demographic groups[xvi].


There are housing choices that fit a variety of lifestyles in Downtown’s 12 neighborhoods. There are over 6,000 condominium units and nearly 25,000 apartment units with more on the way[xvii]. About a quarter of housing in Downtown Seattle is subsidized. Attracted by access to Downtown’s assortment of amenities, attractions and housing choices, it’s no wonder the downtown population grew 70 percent between 1990 and 2010[xviii].

[i][ii] Based on the Metropolitan Improvement District’s 2010 Street Level Business Inventory; [iii] Based on the Metropolitan Improvement District’s 2010 Street Level Business Inventory; [iv] Washington State Department of Revenue; [v]Americans for the Arts; [vi] King County Metro TransitSound TransitCommunity Transit and Pierce Transit[vii] Commute Seattle[viii] Seattle Department of Transportation; [ix] City of Seattle; [x] Puget Sound Regional Council Covered Employment Estimates[xi] The Nielsen Company; [xii] Central Connecticut State University[xiii] Brookings Institution: The Geography of Immigrant Skills: Educational Profiles of Metropolitan Areas[xiv] Seattle is the No. 1 post-recession mecca for young skilled workers. The Wall Street Journal, October 2009; [xv] The Toronto Board of Trade’s Scorecard on Prosperity (via The Globe and Mail); [xvi] The Nielsen Company; [xvii] King County Assessor Database, DSA/MID Development Guide Database; [xviii] The Nielsen Company