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

What People are Saying  

Sara Nelson, City Council President, Position 9 (Citywide) 

“The best way to fight displacement is by giving entrepreneurs the ability to actually own their commercial space and take the worry of higher rents, or the building being sold from under them, off the table. The Business Community Ownership Fund is a game changing partnership for our city that makes sure that public dollars go to the small businesses that need it most, so they can stay in town, create jobs and generate wealth. I look forward to seeing more small businesses grow and prosper in partnership with the fund.” 

Tammy Morales, Seattle City Councilmember, District 2 

“As a city, we must do everything we can to ensure that the businesses that make our neighborhoods vibrant are not displaced. This is especially important for small businesses in the South End. We know it’s not just residential tenants getting pushed out of this city. Small businesses are getting pushed out too, and this can potentially help them stay anchored in their communities and increase community ownership of land. I’m excited to see this partnership between the City, Grow America, and JPMorgan Chase result in opportunities for small business owners to build generational wealth and create stability. Congratulations to Sergio Max and Sonia-Lynn, and I hope to see La Union Studio flourish in the South End for generations to come.” 

Markham McIntyre, Director, Seattle Office of Economic Development 

“Seattle is increasingly unaffordable for many, including our small businesses. These businesses are integral for our communities, so we want to make every effort to help them stay in their neighborhoods. We are working to solve these issues by building out a comprehensive suite of commercial affordability strategies including a pilot master leasing strategy, retail strategy and matchmaking small businesses and entrepreneurs to vacant commercial space. OED’s goals are to remove barriers and create meaningful access for BIPOC entrepreneurs to resources and opportunities to build generational wealth and stay rooted and thrive in our neighborhoods.” 

Daniel Marsh, President and CEO of Grow America. 

“More business owners like Sonia and Sergio could benefit from having a permanent space with fixed, affordable rents. The BCO Fund is working to bring displaced businesses back to their neighborhoods and give them the long-term stability and control they need to grow even more.” 

Kerri Schroeder, Pacific Northwest Regional Chair and Region Manager – Middle Market Banking for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking “JPMorgan Chase and our Foundation are pleased to make a significant investment in the BCO fund. This grant highlights our focus of providing an ecosystem of support, financing opportunities and contracting opportunities allowing BIPOC entrepreneurs to stabilize and grow as a tool for wealth creation and providing living wage employment.” 

About the Business Community Ownership Fund: 

Using an LLC structure, the BCO Fund purchases ground-floor real estate in mixed-used buildings in high displacement risk neighborhoods and secures financing for the project.  Businesses become part of the LLC that owns the building, thereby securing control and long-term affordability. The stability of occupancy costs allows small businesses to stay in their neighborhood and redirect profits back into the business for further growth.  

About La Union Studio: 

Where Design Meets Culture: Led by founders, Sonia-Lynn Abenojar & Sergio Max Legon-Talamoni, La Union Studio is a full-service interior design and cultural placemaking studio based in Seattle, Washington. Our studio specializes in the design of commercial and residential buildings with a focus on the design of cultural, retail, hospitality, food service, multi-family value additions and custom single family residential projects.