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'Time to celebrate': Durkan talks downtown Seattle recovery as reopening events begin

The "Welcome Back" weeks will run from July 12-26 and aim to kickstart downtown's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan held a press conference Monday to talk about various downtown recovery efforts as the city continues to reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the major recovery efforts are the two “Welcome Back” weeks that the city is throwing along with the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) from July 12-26.

"We were a city that had one of the most dynamic economy anywhere, and we had to shut it down," Durkan said. "And now we got to start it up. And the way we do that is get people back into small businesses because small businesses really are the majority of the businesses in Seattle."

The “Welcome Back” weeks feature promotions across downtown neighborhoods as well as large-scale events around the downtown corridor.

Another proposal by Durkan is to loosen limitations on new businesses in downtown. The order would temporarily allow certain types of businesses, like medical offices, gyms and bike parking, to apply for permits in the downtown area where certain limitations apply.

The proposal is set to be heard for the first time by the Land Use Neighborhoods Committee meeting on July 14.

"We have an advantage over most other cities in American because over 80% of people in Seattle are fully vaccinated," Durkan said. "That makes it a safe place for people to visit. It also makes it safe for us to reopen our businesses."

Durkan tweeted Monday morning about the first two major “Welcome Back” events happening at Hing Hay Park on Saturday and Sunday.

According to DSA, more than 450 street-level business locations in downtown closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting Durkan to form the Downtown Revitalization Working Group and invest millions of dollars in the recovery effort.

This includes the recently passed Seattle Rescue Plan, which invests $128.4 million into various recovery initiatives as well as expanding shelter and housing.

"I think it’s a time to celebrate," Durkan said Monday. "We made it through a really, really tough time. There’s still people struggling and suffering, we can’t forget that. But now, as we look forward to the future, this is a really important step."

She was joined Monday by Intentionalist Founder and CEO Laura Clise and Alliance for Pioneer Square Business Development Director Chris Woodward at Occidental Square. Clise's website, intentionalist.com, helps people find and support local businesses in their neighborhoods. 

Washington state as a whole reopened its economy on June 30. As of July 9, the state's vaccination rate for those 16 years and older is 69.6%.