by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Seattle is a city of neighborhoods with which its citizens strongly identify. Capitol Hill has an identity all its own and is, perhaps, the most recognized of all.
More than a Gayborhood, 'The Hill' (as it's commonly referred to) is home to beautifully constructed parks, unique retail, a vast array of eateries, and much more. A little bit of everything that can be found on Capitol Hill.
In 2006, a group of neighborhood stakeholders joined hands with the City of Seattle to create a framework for public and private investments to revitalize Broadway and Capitol Hill. Within a year, the group incorporated the new Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce (CHCC) to spearhead economic, business, and community development. Now, with over 170 current Capitol Hill members in their network, the opportunities to build relationships and engage in the community are endless.
Michael Wells sits at the helm of the CHCC as its executive director. Wells is hardly new to the neighborhood; he is the former owner of Bailey-Coy Books on Broadway. He managed the store for 15 years and became the owner in 2003. During that time, Wells was active with both the Broadway Business Improvement Association and the CHCC, serving as the founding board president for the first two years of the current Chamber's inception.
In 2009, after serving the Capitol Hill and greater Seattle community for 26 years, Bailey-Coy closed and Wells was asked by the CHCC to act as its interim director. Shortly thereafter, he was hired as the new executive director.
'I believe in the work that the CHCC does, namely supporting economic development in the Capitol Hill community,' Wells told Seattle Gay News. 'That support takes many forms: advocating for Capitol Hill with the City of Seattle and other public agencies (such as Sound Transit), showcasing and marketing our members, and connecting businesses, groups, and individuals in the Capitol Hill community.'
'I have a long relationship with Capitol Hill, having been a resident and business owner for over 20 years,' continued Wells. 'I believe in this neighborhood as an example of the best in urban living. I can't think of a better way to celebrate my love of Capitol Hill than to be a leader in an organization committed to its health and vibrancy.'
Wells likes the neighborhood so much he recently contributed to the Dan Savage and Terry Miller It Gets Better book. He wrote an essay titled Not Normal, about leaving his hometown Normal, Illinois to find his own personal home on Capitol Hill in Seattle, Washington.
'We are a neighborhood in the midst of great change,' he told SGN. 'That change must be stewarded by committed individuals and organizations that work to serve the neighborhood during that change.'
Wells says it is the Chamber's job to grow and maintain this neighborhood in a way that reflects the wants and desires of the community. 'We are at a critical juncture in our cities and neighborhoods in this country, and we want to be an organization that makes sure that Capitol Hill thrives during these turbulent times,' he said.
'The Chamber has a fantastic, superstar Board of Directors made up of business folk, nonprofit organizers, artists, and residents who do heroic work on behalf of Capitol Hill every day,' said Wells. 'Our tag line is 'Not your daddy's Chamber,' and by that we mean that our work is a little different than some traditional Chambers - we reflect the many faces of Capitol Hill: business, art, entertainment and nightlife, restaurant and food culture, parks, and cultural institutions. I'm very proud of the work that we do.'
Wells was raised in Normal, Illinois, and attended the University of Iowa, where he received a degree in general studies with an emphasis on English and theatre. He relocated to Seattle in 1989 and began his bookselling career at Bailey-Coy Books that year. At Bailey-Coy, he curated a reading series, bringing authors as diverse as Armistead Maupin, Quentin Crisp, Anne Rice, Gloria Steinem, David Sedaris, Sandra Bernhard, Sapphire, Dorothy Allison, Tony Kushner, and a host of others to Capitol Hill. Wells received the Mayor's Office of Economic Development Small Business Award in 2005 and was awarded the Spirit of the Hill Award by the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce in 2008.
The CHCC is committed to supporting an economically vital, livable community and promoting Capitol Hill as a unique urban neighborhood that is welcoming to everyone. For more information about the CHCC, visit them online at www.caphillchamber.org.
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