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The BASE program provides essential information, experience, and connections in service of supporting community cultural spaces.

The cohort meets regularly for a year, exploring the mechanics of both cultural community organizing and of commercial property development. Experts are brought in to explain some of the more esoteric details of capital stack financing, or of floor-to-area ratio incentives.  When possible, meetings take place at a cultural space in Seattle, with a tour and discussion with the space's leadership.

Upon completing the course, students earn a Certificate of Completion.

Breakout groups at the Square Feet Seattle conference, designed as a space where the BASE cohort members and the larger community come together to explore issues in Cultural Space development.
The Course: About


The BASE sessions for each year alter to reflect the cohort’s interests as well as the changing world around them. The following is a broad outline of a few of the types of  sessions and subject matter the program has engaged over the years.

Tell me a Story

How do you tell a cultural story in a real estate context? How do you tell a real estate story to a cultural audience? Learn various storytelling techniques and apply them to hypothetical cultural space projects:

  • Graphic recording / graphic facilitation

  • Social media storytelling

  • Science fiction tropes: Writing the Other

  • Indigenous storytelling and performance

Back of the Napkin:
Quick and Rough Feasibility

What are the questions that you ask, what are the tools that you use, to quickly decide if a project merits a deeper analysis? In this session we review up to 25 actual properties available for purchase or lease in the Seattle area at the time of the session. The cohort is joined by experts in construction, code review, accessibility, design, and financing, to analyze the properties.

  • Understand some back-of-the-napkin cost estimation techniques for new construction and tenant improvements (price per foot / contractors templates)

  • Understand general zoning, land use, building typology, and market analysis implications

  • Put together rough, order-of-magnitude construction and operating budgets for each group project

  • Understand what can go wrong: environmental cleanup costs, negotiation timelines, other failures

Truth to Power
(Government Day)

In this session we learn how to navigate various governmental systems. We are introduced to actual program managers and “gatekeepers” and discuss what access more traditional players have to government, and how to create pathways to decision-makers for our emerging communities.

  • The inside/outside game (where are the front doors and where are the back doors to City Government?)

  • Government Funding Opportunities

  • Permitting: Forgiveness and Permission

  • Getting to Know the Gatekeepers

  • Leveraging your Electeds

Team-Building Exercise at Work

What models exist for equitable partnerships between organizations and development partners, programming partners, and others? How do those partnerships form, and how do the most successful ones operate?

  • Equitable partnership agreement examples

  • Examples of challenges

  • Conflict resolution plans

  • Scenario planning

Bring Money, Part I

What does a traditional Capital Stack look like and how do you build one? In this session we primarily explore Financing and Philanthropy:

  • Traditional Bank loans

  • CDFI lending

  • Capital Philanthropy

  • Tax credits

Bring People:
Community Engagement

How do cultural space projects ensure an authentic connection to the broader cultural community?

  • Community Engagement tips and techniques

  • Case Studies: Wing Luke, Africatown, Cultural Space Agency

  • Synthesis and progress: how to apply the community's engagement

Bring Money, Part II

Non-Traditional Approaches to Building the Capital Stack:

  • Community Wealth-Building Opportunities and Structures

  • Traditional and State-of-the-Art methods of seeking contributed support

  • Social impact investors and capped returns

Designed with You in Mind

Architecture, Engineering, and Design:

  • Working with design professionals

  • Understanding principle of physical design that impact community gathering

  • Examples of spaces that "just work" for people / don't wirk for people


Community Ownership Models:

  • Understand some financial models for community ownership

  • Community Land Trusts

  • Case Studies: Equinox Studios, Mercy Corps Model, CAST SF, People's Economy Lab

Accessory Cultural Units: Cultural Spaces in Single-Family Zonesned

A session that explores the opportunities that single-family homes present for cultural activation. Learn to leverage the assets that exist in our communities to root cultural activity in the square footage we already inhabit.

  • Wa Na Wari

  • West African Community Council

  • The Grocery Studios

  • CACE 21

  • Legalize It: The Vancouver Model

Holding Hands Up High
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