Request for Proposals

Historic South Downtown is soliciting proposals for our second round of grants supporting capital projects or operations. Successful projects will serve Pioneer Square and/or the Chinatown-International District in identified priority areas that align with Historic South Downtown values and principles.  Please read through all of the information in this Request for Proposals (RFP) before starting your application.

DUE DATE: 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) July 1, 2020

Application questions must be answered online. Please note, the application must be completed in one sitting. We realize you may want to prepare and edit your answers in advance. To do so, please see the list of questions here.

Supplemental material must be submitted before the deadline to:

UPDATES TO THIS RFP WILL BE MADE VIA EMAIL. SIGN UP ON to ensure you receive our emails.

Round 3 RFP Timeline

Release of RFP: May 20, 2020

Deadline: 11:59 PM Wednesday, July 1, 2020.

Grant Information Session:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020, 3 to 4:30 p.m., Via Zoom – RSVP and ZOOM INFO

Communities Rise: Historic South Downtown is working with Communities Rise to provide applicants with free, confidential grant writing support. Communities Rise fosters movements to build power in communities impacted by systemic oppression. Their goal is to create an equitable system by pursuing cross-sector collaboration and providing capacity building and legal services for community organizations and microenterprises. Communities Rise will be providing free, remote-access one-on-one grant writing support. Access Communities Rise support.

Request one-on-one support from Historic South Downtown staff by writing to

Types of Projects to be Funded

Historic South Downtown intends to provide both capital and operations funding. A capital project is defined as one that leads to the creation or renovation of the built environment. There will be no minimum financial dollar amount that defines capital. Please see the Priority Funding Areas section, below, for further detail regarding the intended use of Historic South Downtown funds.

What we don’t fund

•            Affordable housing development or renovation of specific URM structures, however, we will consider applications to fund associated costs that contribute to the vitality and integration with the neighborhood (e.g., feasibility and predevelopment for ground floor retail, affordable commercial space, community space/facilities, system improvement and integration, etc.)

•            Projects that do not benefit the Pioneer Square and Chinatown-International District

•            Projects that solely benefit one individual or have extremely limited community impact

Total Funding and Funding Rounds

Since 2019, Historic South Downtown has committed almost $3M in funding for local nonprofits, including emergency grants to aid in community resilience and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

In this RFP Round, Historic South Downtown intends to award Capital Funding grants of up to $140,000 per award, and Program Funding grants from $10,000 to $35,000 per award. The exact number of grants awarded will be determined by the need demonstrated in responses to this RFP.

There are no limitations for organizations applying to more than one funding round, submitting more than one project in any one funding round, or submitting funding requests for a single project in phases to more than one funding round.

Contracting and Funding Disbursement

Successful applicants will engage in a contracting process with Historic South Downtown, which will include details about the disbursement schedule, performance benchmarks, and reporting requirements. Depending upon the project and size of budget, grant payments may be made in one lump sum, based on a reimbursement schedule, or defined performance benchmarks. All project funding for all rounds must be distributed and deliverables completed by December 2022.

Organizational Background

Historic South Downtown (Historic South Downtown) is a state-created agency responsible for preserving, restoring, and promoting the health, safety, and cultural identity of Seattle’s Pioneer Square and Chinatown-International District neighborhoods. 

Historic South Downtown was created by the Washington State Legislature as the first community preservation and development authority in the state. Historic South Downtown exists to respond to impacts from ongoing construction of major public facilities, public works, and capital projects in both neighborhoods. It is governed by a board of thirteen volunteer, elected directors that represent community stakeholders from Chinatown-International District, Pioneer Square, and local legislature.

Historic South Downtown recently received funding from King County Transit Oriented Development bonds that will be distributed to the communities we serve via a competitive grantmaking process. This Request for Proposals is the first in a series of proposal rounds that will distribute at least $4.2M in funding between now and 2022.

Those interested in receiving updates about this and future funding opportunities should sign up for our mailing list at


Drawing from Historic South Downtown’s Strategic Plan, the Board of Directors has determined that all grant solicitation, review, evaluation, awards, and monitoring will be conducted in furtherance of the authority’s defined values:

1.           Equity. Mitigate historic racial and social inequity and model equity in work and impact.

2.           Neighborhood Self-determination. Advocate for Chinatown-International District and Pioneer Square to exercise self-determination with regards to our character, future needs and wants.

3.           Continuous Learning. Rooted in history and remain responsive to our changing neighborhoods.

4.           Accountability. Act transparently and maximize the potential of our assets to benefit our community.

5.           Resiliency. Respond to opportunities and threats while maintaining mission focus.

Guiding Principles

The Guiding Principles are the framework for scoring and evaluating the grant proposals received:

1.           Grants should lead to community benefits that remain after Historic South Downtown funding is expended.

2.           Ideally, funding should be leveraged. Historic South Downtown participation should build upon other resources and support.

3.           Funding will be given to projects located within or serving people in Pioneer Square or the Chinatown-International District (or both), as defined by the City of Seattle. Current district maps may be found at: (C-ID) and (Pioneer Square).

4.           Funding will be awarded to nonprofits or applicants that are fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit. Applicants may apply prior to finalizing their fiscal sponsorship; however, no awards will be made without a valid fiscal sponsorship agreement. Applicants that do not have nonprofit status are encouraged to contact Historic South Downtown staff to discuss this requirement further. A list of potential fiscal sponsors is available at Applications can be submitted by a single Applicant or a partnership, so long as the lead entity qualifies as a nonprofit.

5.           All participants in the solicitation, evaluation, awarding, and monitoring of Historic South Downtown grants shall be trained to implement the Historic South Downtown strategic plan.

Priority Funding Areas

Historic South Downtown seeks to provide funding in areas that will help to elevate the voices of those who live, work, and play in the South Downtown neighborhoods; that will help build community strength and identity, and develop resiliency in these two historic communities. Specifically, Historic South Downtown will be target grantmaking toward:

1.           Capacity for Local Organizations

Historic South Downtown may provide a portion of its funding to support time-limited projects that empower local voices and promote equitable results for the neighborhoods of South Downtown. Examples of work that may be funded includes neighborhood advocacy, organizing, and project incubation.

2.           Business Development

Historic South Downtown recognizes that small, micro and, culturally relevant businesses represent a gateway to economic stability for individuals and families, enlarging employment opportunities for residents and creating a platform for sustainable economic prosperity. Historic South Downtown may fund projects that build the capacity and resilience of these businesses. Funded projects must comply with the State of Washington Constitution’s prohibition against lending of public credit or gifting of public funds (Wash. Const. Art. 8 §5, 7).  Examples of projects that could be funded include, but are not be limited to:

•            a nonprofit that provides training for small business start-ups;

•            funding of façade improvements that are needed to comply with the special review procedures of the two Historic Districts;

3.           History/Culture

Historic South Downtown may invest in projects that promote, preserve, document, and strengthen the history and culture of the two neighborhoods. Examples of projects could include, but not be limited to: historic exhibits at museums, installations of historical markers, art installations.

4.           Public Realm

Historic South Downtown may invest in projects that support activation, safety, and engagement in the public realm. We understand the public realm to be a critical investment for the residents, businesses, and visitors to our communities, and essential to the quality of life in the areas we serve. Examples of projects that could be funded include, but are not be limited to: activities that promote usage of area parks, plazas, or other public spaces, alley improvements.

Appeal Process

•            Historic South Downtown shall notify all applicants of the results of the RFP process, including notification on RFP review and appeal processes

•            If any applicant feels Historic South Downtown has failed to follow its defined process, they may send an appeal form to the Board President, c/o Historic South Downtown, 409B Maynard Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98104. The Board President shall consult with the Executive Committee and the Executive Director and respond to the appeal letter within 30 days

•            Funding awards are not subject to appeal

•            Applicants may also seek review of unsuccessful applications by the Executive Director, who will respond to their request within 5 business days

Access the Round 3 application online.